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Portugal - Politics - 2019 Election

The next Portuguese general election is scheduled for 2019 and must be held no later than October. At the last general election in 2015, the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Central Social Democratic-Popular Party (CDS-PP) coalition won the most votes, but not enough to form a government. The Socialist Party (PS) then pacted with the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and the Left Bloc (BE) to enable the PS to rule as a minority government.

Initially dismissed by the PSD as a fragile "contraption", the informal coalition proved a relative success. The bruising the PSD subsequently suffered at October 2017 municipal elections forced a change of tactics. The PSD elected a new leader in January 2018 in Rui Rio, who promised to collaborate with the PS in order to ensure key reforms be passed. Rio has since signed a number of cooperation agreements with PS prime minister Antonio Costa.

Meanwhile, there were rumblings of discontent within BE and PCP ranks, and not just about Costa flirting with the PSD. Promises made by the PS in order to gain BE and PCP support for the 2017 and 2018 budgets have not been entirely fulfilled.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on 07 May 2018 that he would be prepared to call an early general election if negotiations for the 2019 State Budget break down. "I deem the budget so fundamental that if it failed to be approved I would have to think twice about something else I consider essential to the country, and that is that this legislature be fulfilled to the end," he said in an interview with Radio Renascenca and Publico newspaper.

Negotiations for the 2019 State Budget were due to start in August 2018. Negotiations are likely to be "more complex than last year", said Rebelo de Sousa. Asked whether he envisaged a scenario whereby the BE and PCP vetoed the 2019 budget, but the PSD enabled it to pass, Rebelo de Sousa said: "I don't know, that's a question to put to the leader of the PSD."

But Rebelo de Sousa, himself a former PSD leader, added that "this is not a personal issue, it's an institutional one, and come what may there must be an approved budget ready to come into force on January 1, 2019".

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