Luís Montenegro, the leader that no one saw in Portugal |

At that time the opportunity was not in sight. The legislative elections seemed far away, although António Costa was ruling with an absolute majority that gave him more problems than expected. Despite the errors and scandals of the Socialist Cabinet, the leader of the PSD, elected in primaries with a resounding support of 75% in May 2022, had not taken off either in the polls or in the assessment of political commentators or in the popular enthusiasm. In his party, very prone to phagocyticism when he is in the opposition, there were whispers about alternatives to his leadership. The deadline seemed to be the European elections in June this year. If Montenegro crashed, moves to unseat it could begin.

The nostalgic looked towards Pedro Passos Coelho, the former conservative prime minister who always seems on the verge of returning, indifferent to the unpopularity of the ruler who applied the medicine of austerity imposed by the troika (European Central Bank, Monetary Fund and European Commission). between 2011 and 2014 without trembling. For those looking to the future, the name on the rise was that of the former European commissioner and current mayor of Lisbon, Carlos Moedas. Furthermore, the PSD parliamentary caucus was a regular source of dissension and mutiny that Montenegro had to quell.

Luís Montenegro with former Portuguese president Aníbal Cavaco Silva. TIAGO PETINGA (WHICH)

He opted for a strategy of internal prudence and managed to reconcile all the sensitivities of the party, as evidenced in the campaign with the participation in his rallies of the former PSD prime ministers José Manuel Durão Barroso, Aníbal Cavaco Silva and Pedro Passos Coelho. In his speech after his electoral victory in Lisbon, he appealed to this spirit to face the devilish governance that awaits him, with an Executive that will not have a majority in Parliament, given Montenegro’s refusal to integrate Chega’s ultras into its team. “In the same way that we were able to contribute to present this coalition, we are also going to contribute from the Government,” he stated.

sanitary cord

The cordon sanitaire in front of Chega, never verbalized in this way, has not been there since the first days of Luís Montenegro’s leadership. It took him a while to be clear about his strategy regarding the extreme right and doubts were unleashed when the PSD accepted Chega’s votes in the Azores islands to snatch the Government from the Socialist Party (PS), which had won the elections without an absolute majority. But he finally said that “no means no” and slammed the door on André Ventura’s claims to become minister. After learning of his victory, he reiterated his commitment: “Naturally I will keep my word.” “I would never cause such evil to myself, my party, my country and democracy by failing to fulfill my commitment,” he stressed.

Azores was a great oxygen ball for Montenegro. The autonomous region held early elections in February, after the failure of that Government supported at the time by Chega, and gave victory to the Democratic Alliance, the electoral coalition led by the PSD, with enough room to not need votes from the extreme right. . Azores thus compensated for the blow that the party received a few weeks earlier in Madeira, where important charges were arrested due to a case of urban corruption. Miguel Albuquerque, regional president, leader of the group and one of those involved in the plot, according to prosecutors, had to resign.

No party machinery was prepared for early elections, but Montenegro’s had been shoring up its public image for two years. One of the initiatives that helped him was the program Feel Portugal, which led him to spend a week in each district of the country to interview different groups. The day this newspaper accompanied him, he visited a shanty town in Seixal, in the Lisbon region. In the subsequent interview he drew the two red lines that he has repeated in the campaign: not to govern if he was not the most voted and not to allow the extreme right access to the Government.

Luís Montenegro smiles after a climate activist threw paint at him, at an electoral event at the Lisbon Fair Tourism Fair, on February 28.
Luís Montenegro smiles after a climate activist threw paint at him, at an electoral event at the Lisbon Fair Tourism Fair, on February 28. ANDRE KOOSTERS (EFE)

When the campaign started, there was a technical tie between the two main parties, similar to the portrait left on election night. Faced with the setbacks or small defeats of recent days—the press considered that he lost the debate with the socialist Pedro Nuno Santos—Montenegro remained unperturbed. He put out the fires such as the proposal of one of his candidates to call a new abortion referendum and sportingly dealt with the bath of green ink that activists against the climate emergency caused him while visiting a fair in Lisbon. A few weeks ago he made a humble confession: “I know that people expect more from me than I have been able to show until now.”

Lack of experience

Precisely, his lack of government experience has been a recurring criticism of his socialist rival, who has recalled his lurches on strategic issues for the country, such as the construction of the new Lisbon airport, pending for more than half a century. Montenegro agreed with Costa to create an independent technical commission to decide the location and finally decided to ignore its conclusions when they were presented. He also swerved the country’s regionalization plans, supported by the former leadership of the PSD, and announced that he would not support a referendum as proposed by the socialists.

Luís Montenegro, president of the Social Democratic Party of Portugal, talks with a neighbor in the shanty town of Santa Marta do Pinhal, in Seixal, on June 22.
Luís Montenegro, president of the Social Democratic Party of Portugal, talks with a neighbor in the shanty town of Santa Marta do Pinhal, in Seixal, on June 22.João Henriques

In his electoral program he promises to reintroduce the private sector in the care of the National Health Service and a reduction in the fiscal burden in the income tax, but the main unknown will be how allies who go a long way determine their decisions in economic and social policy. further than the PSD. The triumph of the Democratic Alliance, the coalition that has led Montenegro, will now give prominence to two minority parties that lacked parliamentary weight, such as the conservative Democratic and Social Center-Popular Party, and the Monarchic People’s Party, completely residual in Portugal.

In politics from a young age, Montenegro began going to PSD events with his parents and soon joined the organization’s youth. After graduating in Law from the Catholic University of Porto, he made his debut at the age of 23 as a councilor of Espinho, a coastal town where he grew up, where he was a lifeguard and where a controversial six-story house was built. Also controversial were several contracts of his law firm with municipalities governed by the PSD in the days when he was leader of the parliamentary group, between 2011 and 2017. They coincided with the years of the Passos Coelho government and the social protests against the austerity imposed by the troika after a bailout of 78 billion euros. From those days a phrase from Montenegro remained in history: “People’s lives are not better, but the country is much better.”

Follow all the international information on Facebook y Xor our weekly newsletter.

to continue reading


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.