Portugal's efforts to find a new government turn sour

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2015 11:10 AM
Portugal's efforts to find a new government turn sour

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The cordial negotiations between Portugal's political parties on forming a postelection government are over. Now, they're turning hostile.

The patience of Pedro Passos Coelho, center-right prime minister for the past four years, appeared to snap Wednesday after his main rival, Socialist leader Antonio Costa, continued with his efforts to form a center-left government despite losing the Oct. 4 general election.

Passos Coelho's coalition collected 38.5 percent and 107 seats in the 230-seat Parliament, with four still to be allocated. But it will be outnumbered by left-of-center parties, who on Costa's initiative are now seeking common ground that they hope could lead them to power.

"It's time to say loud and clear that the Socialist Party lost the elections," Passos Coelho told reporters. "I won't subject the country to political blackmail."

He said his two meetings with Costa to find a compromise that would ensure the survival of a minority government had made no progress and he would refuse to meet Costa again.

"I won't let the country play hostage to a party political game," he said. "We're not going to stand the election results on their head."

Costa says his negotiations with the radical Left Bloc and Communist Party/Green Party alliance are legitimate because more than 60 percent of voters chose alternatives to the government.

Costa says a government he leads would abide by eurozone fiscal rules, though he wants to ease austerity measures.

The Left Bloc campaigned to renegotiate the national debt and end austerity measures, while the Communist Party wants Portugal out of the eurozone, but both say they are willing to give up those policies in order to keep Passos Coelho from returning to the prime minister's office in Lisbon's Sao Bento palace.