Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 04:01:13 AM EST
Since now I feel like I owe ET a few diaries, I shall attempt here to lay out the current political spectrum of Portugal and how it relates to recent history and Portuguese society.
Disclaimer: Please bear in mind I'm little more than a concerned citizen, with no political affiliation, and no special insights or background on politics. So take it as the personal view it is, although based on the facts as I know them.
The current composition of the portuguese parliament comprises, from right to left:
CDS - This is the most right mainstream party. It includes two major sorts of right wing though: Hardcore neo-liberals and democratic Christians. It's a small party with 12 seats. It represents more or less 5-10% of the electorate.
PSD - This is one of the two major parties in Portuguese politics. It has several currents inside, from neo-liberal to social democrats as normally understood here in ET.
PS - This is the socialist party, currently in absolute majority, and the government. In principle, social democrats, aligned with the social democratic parties in the EP, etc.
BE - This is the Left Block. This party originated from the merging of several small left wing parties and a citizens initiative from the early nineties that looked for a new left that would redefine itself to be more modern.
PCP - This is THE communist party. It's probably the last hardcore communist party in western Europe. The legacy of it's historical leader is still held to the letter, insider reformers were driven out. It holds 12 seats, but since it always runs with the Green party, that elects 2 seats but has no real base, in practice PCP is worth 14 seats.
From the front page - whataboutbob
The main "swing" voters place themselves somewhere between PSD and PS. That's where the main battle is fought in elections.
So, what's the difference between PSD and PS? In practice, if you look at their policies it's hard to tell them apart.
To understand where both come from you have to go back to 1974, during the days of the revolution. The only structured and organized party at the time was the PCP. The PS existed, but it was little more than it's leadership, most of it in exile.
The PCP was fiercely pro-USSR, Stalinist, and so had trouble capturing the hearts of most of the Portuguese people. The fact that they attempted to control the pace and goals of the revolution from the start, gave PS, as a more reasonably and democratic party, in the figure of its leader, Mário Soares, the role of countering the power hungry communists.
But the PS was a party built from top down, with freemason undertones, and clearly anti-clerical. So a large part of the population didn't saw it as fitting its values.
That's where PSD comes in, as largely a grass roots party, building an alternative that, being still aligned to the left, (the word Marxism only left the party statutes in the late eighties), was tolerant of more traditional Portuguese values, although not defining itself around them.
That was the job of CDS. CDS stands for Democratic Social Center. This is telling of the anti-right wing bias on the post revolution period. You could be to the center... more to the right than that and you'd be a fascist. Anyway, they represent the more conservative democratic segment of the population, generally upper class and catholic, and also their neo-liberals sons. They don't mix too well, since democratic Christians tend to be much more social conscious.
The Portuguese constitution explicitly prohibits extreme-right organizations. There are some informal fascist groups, but they cant form a party or run for elections. Although they try.
For a long time these were the major players in Portuguese politics, with a few odd episodes, like the emergence and disappearance of the PRD in the 80's, largely built around the figure of General Eanes, the first elected president, after 74.
During the 90's along came the BE. It's the "liberal left" party, the ones that champion gay rights, environmental causes, women's rights, immigrants rights, etc.
Unfortunately (and that's s a personal view) this is party that has trouble crossing to the main stream. On one side there is the values thing that still plays an important role, on the other, and I think that's the main issue, it is viewed largely as a party for privileged left wing urban bourgeois that rebel with a full belly, if you know what I mean, discussing the problems of the working class behind glasses filled with 12 year old Scotch.
Currently the PS has a mandate for 3 more years, after gaining absolute majority. They are posing as dealing with tough issues like Social Security reform, boosting economic growth, raising productivity and tackling bureaucracy and fiscal fraud.
It is telling that PSD is having a tough job making opposition because most of the policies would be implemented in pretty much the same way. They both buy into a lot of the "consensus" we talk about here in ET.
Meanwhile, for the common Portuguese on the streets choice between one or other party is pretty much a matter of which Boys get the Jobs.