Portugal's deputy PM confident of majority for ruling coalition

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 12, 2015 10:59 AM

By Axel Bugge and Sergio Goncalves

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's center-right government is confident of winning an absolute majority in next month's national election, the deputy prime minister said, with voters keen to avoid returning to the economic instability that forced the country into a bailout.

Opinion polls indicate a hung parliament in the Oct. 4 poll, as the economy recovers from a 2011 bailout and three years of recession.

Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas told Reuters he believed the Portuguese were not prepared to hand the running of the country back to the opposition center-left Socialists, who had sought the bailout four years ago.

"I think the Portuguese will have very good sense in who they choose on Oct. 4 and they will avoid any kind of risk of returning to the causes and consequences of what happened in 2011," Portas said.

"No society goes through what the Portuguese went through without learning its due lessons and consequences. We had a serious budget deficit and debt problem in 2011," leading to the bailout and an inevitable recession, he said.

Portas heads the conservative CDS-PP party, junior partner in the coalition with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's center-right Social Democrats. He served as foreign minister at the start of the current government but was subsequently given responsibility of coordinating economic policy, including relations with the bailout lenders.

The coalition was elected after the collapse of the previous minority government led by the Socialists, who have also said they are also confident of winning a majority and do not intend to govern with other parties.

HARSH MEASURES

Passos Coelho's government had been left with the task of enacting harsh austerity measures and tax hikes under the bailout. But the Socialists have failed to capitalize on this upheaval in the campaign so far.

The country exited the bailout on schedule last year without needing any kind of extension or extra money. Portas said for recovery to strengthen, "it is necessary to consolidate the policies that guarantee the growth cycle."

The government would continue prudent economic policies such as ensuring that the budget deficit will remain under 3 percent of gross domestic product, Portas said.

The Socialists have promised to ease austerity and return more disposable income to families.

"I think people know, in spite of having some doubts and reservations, and above all for having paid for the irresponsibility of 2011, that our proposal is more stable, more prudent and produces results," he said.

The economy is now set to grow 1.6 percent this year and consumer confidence has returned to its highest levels since 2001, Portas said.

The deputy PM ruled out any kind of "Plan B" involving government with any other party than the current coalition. Analysts have warned that a hung parliament could lead to political instability or a weak minority government.

"I have a Plan A, the prime minister has a Plan A and that is that we win the elections, we consolidate what we have done and speed up the economic recovery.

"For that we need a stable and lasting majority. In this complex world, where there are risks and complex situations every day, when there is more uncertainty in the world, we need more certainty at home in Portugal."

(Editing by David Holmes)