The most striking feature of the next Government of Portugal is the commitment to feminism. The socialist António Costa, who won the early elections held on January 30 with an absolute majority, will head a Council of Ministers that will be equal for the first time in its history, with nine women and eight men. It is not the only element that reinforces the political power of women in this cabinet: Costa has also handed over the Ministry of Defense portfolio, crucial after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effects on the strengthening of military strategies, to Helena Carreira, a specialist in military sociology from the Lisbon University Institute who since 2019 directed the National Defense Institute. The third relevant decision is the reinforcement in the organizational chart of its number two, the Minister of the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva, who expands the powers of her portfolio with strategic missions such as the coordination of the Recovery and Resilience Plan funds, which will entail the arrival of 16,600 million euros until 2026, the date on which the mandate of the current executive will also end.
The dissemination of the new Government generated an unexpected setback between the Prime Minister, António Costa, and the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who had planned an official audience at the Belém Palace, seat of the Head of State, in the Wednesday afternoon. However, the leak of names in some media irritated Rebelo de Sousa, who decided to cancel the meeting. “If the portfolios are confirmed, a hearing is not necessary. Apparently, I have to be informed by the press”, declared the President of the Republic. Late on Wednesday, the composition of the new government was announced, which will have 17 portfolios (two less than the previous one). The most significant cut, however, occurs in the echelon of the Secretaries of State, which are lowered from 50 to 38. Costa had already announced that he would opt for a smaller Government than that of the last legislature, interrupted halfway by the disagreement of the left to approve the 2022 Budgets, which led to the electoral call.
With his hands free thanks to the absolute majority, António Costa has chosen a team with more political weight, where some of the socialists will sit who until now have sounded like a possible replacement for the secretary general of the PS and prime minister when he ends his stage . No one will argue now with Costa, enthroned after the resounding victory in January, the freedom to choose when he leaves domestic politics. His overwhelming victory has made the debate about a hypothetical succession that, from time to time, appeared in the press, has completely disappeared. Even so, Costa will seat in the Council of Ministers the four who could meet, today, the profile to succeed him. Two of them repeat in the Government: Pedro Nunes Santos will continue to lead Infrastructure and Housing and Mariana Vieira da Silva is reinforced as a superminister and number two in the cabinet. It has also given entrance to two other potential candidates: Ana Catarina Mendes, who was parliamentary leader in the previous legislature, and Fernando Medina, former mayor of Lisbon who lost last September to the candidate of a center-right platform, Carlos Moedas (Partido Social Democrat).
The main surprise of the new Government has been the incorporation of a brilliant scientist, Elvira Fortunato, as Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education. Fortunato, who is independent, arrives endorsed by a recognized career in electronics research. From her laboratory at the University of Lisbon, she created the so-called “paper chip” and patented, together with Samsung, a transparent screen made with eco-sustainable materials.
Portuguese political life has been paralyzed for almost two months, after the decision of the Constitutional Court to annul the recount of the vote of emigrants living in European countries and order the repetition of the legislative elections in that constituency due to the anomalies registered in the process. The new scrutiny has given the two deputies who were at stake to the Socialist Party, which thus sees its parliamentary majority even more reinforced. Paradoxically, the repetition, decided after an appeal by the PSD, has subtracted one deputy from the opposition to add him to the majority of the PS, which will have 120 seats compared to 77 for the main opposition party. The new Assembly of the Republic will be constituted next Tuesday the 29th and the Government will take office the following day.
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