Rocky start to Portugal’s new socialist government

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal takes on a new foreign minister, finance minister and defense minister as the center-left Socialist Party prepares for its third consecutive term in government, with blunders and missteps marking the preparation for his swearing-in.

The Socialists won January’s general election in a landslide victory, winning 119 seats in the 230-seat parliament for a four-year term.

António Costa, the leader of the Socialist Party who has served as prime minister since 2015, was due to present the names of his new cabinet members to the Portuguese president during an audience on Wednesday evening.

But the names were leaked to the media hours before the hearing, which the head of state – a former leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Party – then abruptly called off. Costa denied that the leak came from his office.

The embarrassment came after a snafu over voting from abroad in the January 30 poll forced a resumption of postal votes cast by Portuguese living in the rest of Europe and delayed the swearing in of the new government until March 30.

Red-faced officials have admitted that the 2022 state budget – seen as key to reviving the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the economic fallout from war in Ukraine – could not be approved by parliament only in June.

Costa, who is expected to take up a top international post before the end of his term, has bolstered his liberal credentials by appointing more women than men to his 17-member cabinet, a first for Portugal. The Cabinet has nine women.

The defense minister will be a woman for the first time, as Helena Carreiras leaves her post as director of the National Defense Institute, a government agency.

She replaces João Gomes Cravinho, who is appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in place of Augusto Santos Silva.

Santos Silva becomes speaker of parliament and is expected to stand as a socialist candidate for the presidency of Portugal.

Fernando Medina, former mayor of the capital, Lisbon, is the new finance minister. He has little experience in domestic public finance but is one of Costa’s close political allies and potential future party leader.

Medina lost his job in last year’s municipal elections after admitting Lisbon’s city council had shared the personal details of Lisbon-based dissidents and protesters with foreign embassies, including those of Russia and Israel. .

In his previous two terms, the Socialists governed as a minority government, needing support in the parliamentary vote from their centre-left allies, but they now have enough seats to push through legislation without any support.

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