• Short Summary

    Dr. Mario Soares has been dismissed as Prime Minister of Portugal, on the grounds that?

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    Dr. Mario Soares has been dismissed as Prime Minister of Portugal, on the grounds that he no longer has a parliamentary majority. The President, General Antonio Ramalho Eanes, has begun talks with party leaders on how to form a new government -- at least as a caretaker until new elections can be held.

    SYNOPSIS: Dr. Soares has been Prime Minister for two years -- since his party, the Socialists, in 1976, won Portugal's first democratic elections for more than half a century. He never had an outright majority in Parliament. For seventeen months, he headed a minority government of Socialist alone. Then, last December, his attempts to tackle Portugal's growing economic problems led to his defeat, and forced his into a coalition.

    His partner were the Conservative Centre Democrats, headed by Professor Diogo Freitas do Amaral. He signed an agreement with Dr. Soares in January to co-operate on an agreed programme to restore the Portuguese economy. The Centre Democrats had three portfolios in the new government. Their withdrawal last Monday (24 July) precipitated the present crisis. The Centre Democrats take the view that the government was moving too far to the Left.

    President Eanes saw the new government sworn in on January 30th -- so it lasted almost exactly six months. I was the President, with the aid of his military Revolutionary Council, who decided the time had come for Dr. Soares to go. it will be his task to find someone to replace the outgoing Prime Minister. It should be difficult, for procedural reasons, to hold a general election before next January; so someone would have to take over as caretaker.

    Dr. Victor Sa Machado, the Foreign Minister, was one of the three Centre Democrats who withdrew from the Cabinet. The party had been trying to force the Agriculture Minister, Dr. Luis Saias -- second from left -- out of office. They considered he was doing too little to get land expropriated in the 1975 revolution restored to its owners.

    Dr. Francisco Saw Carneiro heads the other main Right-Centre party, the Social Democrats, He has suggested a three-party coalition, but the Socialists rejected this, knowing the other two could outnumber them.

    None of them wants to see the Communists, led by Dr. Alvaro Cunhal, back in power. Dr. Cunhal says the Centre Democrats provoked the crisis to bring Right-wing dictatorship to Portugal.

    The Centre Democrat leader, Professor Freitas do Amaral, had long talks with President Eanes, trying to heal the rift, before this party finally withdraw from the government. They and the Social Democrats alone would not command a parliamentary majority. Any majority without the Socialist would be difficult to achieve. But Dr. Soares said it was "unthinkable" that he would be asked to form another government, and that, when he was dismissed, he "felt like a bird that found the cage door open."

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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