No confidence motion ups pressure on Portugal govt

AP News
Posted: Mar 10, 2011 12:28 PM
No confidence motion ups pressure on Portugal govt

Debt-stressed Portugal's embattled government came under further political pressure Thursday as Parliament debated a motion of no confidence tabled by a fringe leftist party.

The largest opposition parties refused to support the motion, dooming it to failure, but the debate was an unwelcome ordeal for the minority government as it defends its economic record.

Markets are heaping pressure on Portugal, one of Europe's feeblest economies, as investors demand steep returns for lending the country money amid fears it may not be able to pay it back. Many analysts predict Portugal will end up needing a bailout like Greece and Ireland.

The center-left Socialist government is under fierce financial, political and social pressure as it fights to avoid the embarrassment of asking for outside help.

Against a backdrop of strikes against pay cuts and tax hikes, the government's support has slipped in recent opinion polls to around 30 percent compared with about 37 percent for the center-right Social Democratic Party, its largest rival.

Francisco Louca, leader of a party called Left Bloc, said his party's motion was a protest against the government's debt-reducing austerity measures which he blamed for driving the jobless rate to a record 11.2 percent and increasing hardship.

"Portugal gets worse every day," Louca said.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates said his government would not be knocked off course and would stick with its policies to restore the country's fiscal health.

A motion of no confidence requires the votes of at least 116 lawmakers in the 230-seat Parliament. The Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party, which supported the motion, together have just 31.

The next general election is due in 2013, but if all opposition parties join together they can force the government out.