Sunday, 19 May 2024
WorldMariana Mortágua, leader of the Portuguese Left Bloc: "The right is morally,...

Mariana Mortágua, leader of the Portuguese Left Bloc: “The right is morally, theoretically and politically bankrupt”

The leader of the Left Bloc, Mariana Mortágua, explains that a victory for the right in the Portuguese general elections could reverse the social advances of recent years and herald a return to the “moral, theoretical and political bankruptcy” that followed the crisis. 2008 financial report.

In conversation with The Guardian, As Portugal prepares to go to the polls this Sunday in early elections caused by the fall of António Costa’s socialist government in November, Mortágua affirms that right-wing and far-right parties do not provide viable solutions to the housing, healthcare and salaries in the country.

Likewise, the 37-year-old economist believes that a right-wing victory could jeopardize hard-won social rights, noting that a senior official in one of the parties that make up the center-right Democratic Alliance coalition has proposed the idea of a new referendum on abortion, almost two decades after Portugal repealed one of the most restrictive laws in Europe. “Today, the most shocking news is that one of the right-wing candidates wants to hold a referendum to ban abortion again in Portugal, which is a right that we won 17 years ago,” laments Mortágua. “Right now, this right is threatened.”

The Democratic Alliance – a right-wing coalition that includes the conservative Social Democratic Party (PPD/PSD), the Christian Democratic Social Democratic Center (CDS) and the Popular Monarchist Party (PPM) – has not been slow to mark distances with the proposal of a new referendum on abortion, but Mortágua points out that the PSD-led coalition cannot be allowed to return to power due to the painful and destructive austerity policies it had inflicted on Portugal at the behest of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Fund. International Monetary. In his opinion, “after the intervention of the troika and all the policies of the right, not only here, the right entered a period of moral, theoretical and political bankruptcy.”

“What is at stake in these elections is whether we are able to distance the right from power and the situation they reached after the crisis, because they had no solutions to offer the country or the people, or if somehow “This is how they manage to recover from that bankruptcy and take power again,” he points out.

The centre-right government of Pedro Passos Coelho of the PSD was overthrown in November 2015 and replaced by an anti-austerity alliance formed by the Socialist Party (PS), the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party, popularly known as the geringonça or “improvised solution”.

Under Costa’s direction, the geringonça managed to bring political and economic stability to a country that received a bailout of 78 billion euros from the EU and the IMF in 2011. “In 2015 we managed to do something important and we have to maintain that capacity to change the country, to have agreements for the left and to have progressive measures,” emphasizes Mortágua.

Although the geringonça ended up shipwrecked in 2021, when the Bloco and the PCP refused to support Costa’s budget for 2022, claiming that it did not include measures that the socialists’ partners had requested, Mortágua believes that his party is prepared and willing to support a new government led by the socialists if their voice and positions are taken into account. “We would be delighted to have an agreement if it means that we have enough power to impose new measures for salaries, the health system, housing, etc.,” indicates the Bloco leader.

Tie between conservatives and socialists?

Sunday’s elections are held almost four months after Costa – who won a third term as prime minister and an unexpected absolute majority in the January 2022 general elections – resigned amid an investigation into alleged irregularities in the management of large ecological investment projects by your Government. Costa, who has not been accused of any crime and who maintains that he committed no irregularities, explained that he was resigning out of respect for his position. “The functions of prime minister are not compatible with any suspicion about my integrity,” he said.

According to the latest polls, the Socialists and the PSD are practically tied, with 31% of the votes for the center-right party and 29% for the PS. It seems that the far-right Chega party could come in third place, with 18% of the votes. The Bloco and the center-right Liberal Initiative party compete for fourth place, with between 4% and 6% each.

PSD leader Luís Montenegro has flatly ruled out a possible agreement with Chega, stating that the opinions and policies of its leader, André Ventura, are “often xenophobic, racist, populist and excessively demagogic.” Mortágua approves of the PSD’s decision to reject Chega, but is skeptical about its validity. “Are we completely calm and sure that, when the time comes and they need to seize power, the right will not find a way to agree between them?” says the economist: “No. Nobody is.”

“I’m quite optimistic”

The Bloco suffered a tremendous collapse in the 2022 elections, going from 19 seats in the 230-seat Parliament to five, a terrible result that Mortágua attributes to tactical voting and fear of the extreme right, which led voters in his party to the socialists.

Her party may still have influence to help the left return to government, and she hopes her ideas, rather than concerns about Chega, will win back voters. His policies include using the budget surplus to increase investment in health care and education, ensuring that no CEO can earn more than 12 times the salary of the lowest paid worker in his company, reducing taxes on wages and energy, and ending with the tax regimes for non-residents, according to which they pay a flat tax of 10%.

The party plans to address Portugal’s housing crisis by banning non-residents from buying homes in cities, sharply limiting the number of Airbnbs in saturated areas, and introducing rent caps and mandatory five-year rental contracts to ensure stability. .

Despite the tumult of recent years, Mortágua, whose twin sister is a member of the party she leads, whose mother is a social worker and whose father is a veteran anti-fascist activist who fought against the Salazar regime, is optimistic about the state of Portuguese democracy at a time when the country prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution.

“If you think in international terms, when the welfare states were being built, we were in a dictatorship, and we came out of the dictatorship when neoliberalism was being imposed everywhere,” he says. “Thatcher was showing the worst version of herself and we had just emerged from the dictatorship and were beginning to build our welfare state. Thus, we were always in a kind of countercycle, catching up to build the welfare state and democracy. But we did it and our work was very good.”

For her, the revolution is a good reminder of what can be done: “We have to continue working and show citizens that it is possible to advance by fighting, instead of just resisting to prevent bad things from happening.”

And he concludes: “I am quite optimistic about the results of these elections, even if it is against all odds. “I believe in the great power of the Portuguese.”

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