Is Portugal sliding into socialist authoritarianism?


By Miguel Nunes Silva

In Brussels Report

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Portugal, usually a rather peaceful and complacent country, was lately marked by political tensions, as one of the main political parties decided to stage a walkout from Parliament, following intense acrimony with the socialist Speaker.

This is yet another indication of how the Portuguese democracy has not escaped broader Western trends. The decades long five party system is unravellingCHEGA, a new populist conservative party, has become the third largest of a parliament that is now comprised of eight different political forces. Indeed, today’s 3rd and 4th largest parties in the Assembly of the Republic are both merely 3 years old.

Portugal has equally witnessed some disturbing tendencies when it comes to democratic practices, as is the case throughout the West. Also in Portugal, the internet is a refuge for conservatives, given the blatantly biased coverage of the mainstream media – which in Portugal has been subsidised to the tune of tens of millions during the pandemic. Naturally, conservatives are just as regularly censored and banned by social media in the Iberian republic. As elsewhere, rainbow and social justice flags regularly adorn both public buildings and corporate advertising – while crucifixes are legally banned in classrooms… Finally, in Portugal too, immigrants are given priority over Portuguese citizens when it comes to integration grants and access to healthcare.  Combined with very lax naturalisation laws, it is the far left which tends to gain electorally from these policies, thereby subverting the democratic process, adulterating its rules for partisan purposes.

Escalation

Despite all of this, Lisbon’s socialist government seems poised to escalate things.

The old socialist party (PS), led by Prime Minister António Costa, achieved an absolute majority during the 2022 elections and now rules unopposed in parliament. Some of its MEPs as well as the current Finance Minister, the former Mayor of Lisbon, have gone as far as to call for the banning of the CHEGA party.

The new right-wing firebrand political force is sympathetic towards Donald Trump, Spain’s VOX and Brazil’s Bolsonaro. CHEGA recently rose to prominence with unabashed conservative rhetoric and a strong anti-corruption stance.

Its 3rd place in the latest elections should have allowed it to nominate one of the parliament’s 4 vice-presidents, as traditionally these go to the 4 largest parties in the Assembly but in a historical first, the election of a CHEGA MP as Vice-President as well as one from the new liberal party Liberal Initiative were boycotted by PS deputies. As a result, both positions remain unassigned.

The recent walkout took place as a protest by CHEGA regarding the treatment it endures by the current Speaker of the Portuguese Parliament – a former PS Minister – who regularly admonishes CHEGA for its interventions in the plenary while abstaining from doing so towards other political forces. In fact, the role of the Parliament’s Speaker is supposed to be neutral, so as to possess the necessary authority to arbitrate between the different parties and keep order in parliament. Traditionally, the role was filled by relatively dispassionate and uncontroversial deputies from the main 2 parties but all of that changed in 2015, when the current government came to power.

Another of the traditions that was abandoned was the understanding between PS and the parliamentary Right to keep the far-Left away from government coalitions, given its Leninist and Trotskyist nature. Instead, the socialist party struck an agreement with them, ruling with their support. These parties’ totalitarian influence has been notorious, especially that of the Trotskyist Left Bloc, whose cultural-Marxist influence can now be felt in schools where civics class indoctrinate children into gender ideology and revisionist history.

The consequences for the school system

In a remarkable case, the PS’s Minister of Education personally saw to it that two honour students were held back from graduating, due to their lack of attendance of civics class. These two brothers come from a conservative family with strong reservations regarding the Marxist curriculum. The parents have since become activists for the cause of school curriculum reform. Ironically, as the PS Education Ministry facilitates graduating by systematically eroding evaluation standards, in this case, it intervened directly to fail honour students on the basis of a lack of ideological compliance.

Moreover, most recently, the Public Prosecutor’s Office tried to have the two brothers removed from their parents’ custody. Following a suggestion of the Education Ministry, the government’s Commission for the Protection of Children and Adolescents (CPCJ) launched an investigation of the Mesquita Guimarães family, but it was unable to find the family at fault in any measurement of living conditions. This did not prevent the government from pursuing the matter and bringing the family and the children to court once again, whereupon the Braga Administrative Court judge complained that the children were “diabolically in lockstep with their parents”.

Helena Costa, who heads the newly founded Conservative Family Association, has been denouncing the trend towards Marxist totalitarianism in schools since the previous PS government (2005-2011). As she puts it, “Portugal is downstream from Spain” and the rest of Europe. Many worrisome trends that can be observed in the rest of the collective West have started to make their way into Portugal slowly.

The Ministry of Education began producing ‘woke’ content which mentions curriculum priorities such as “diversity” and “inclusion”. Helena Costa has demonstrated material from the Education Ministry’s Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, which pledges to “incentivising students to discuss their sexuality in class and with school staff”. It contains phrases stating that the male and female biological dichotomy is not scientific”, that the “curriculum for 0-6 year olds needs to focus on equity and gender”. It also contains content for teens discussing how “puberty’s changes are not immutable”, the “degendering of language” and the need to “move away from an overestimation of marriage related [heterosexual] relationship standards for women”. At the same time, this particular Commission takes no responsibility for the content of these materials while a court recently allowed a 15-year-old female student from a gipsy family to leave school entirely so as to marry according to her own community’s values. According to Helena Costa, “sexuality is part of each individual’s intimacy and it belongs to the private sphere, not the public one” but unfortunately, “’sexual education’ directives permeate all disciplines” in schools.

The Justice system

Also when it comes to the Justice system, things are not looking overly bright either. The former Prosecutor-General, under whose tenure a number of powerful figures were prosecuted, was duly replaced when her term was up, causing widespread criticism. Veiled threats against far-Left politicians are immediately investigated and featured as a scandal by the mainstream media, while the constant threats, vitriol and literal stone throwing by PS supporters CHEGA politicians endure on a daily basis are largely ignored by both the authorities and the media. The PS government actually made headlines abroad for being among the most nepotistic governments in Europe.

The rising authoritarianism is also symbolic. Left Bloc militants went on a rampage to vandalise national monuments, in 2020, echoing events in North-America. Not long after, a PS deputy defended the demolition of the Monument dedicated to the Age of Exploration in Lisbon, a national and touristic icon. The mainstream media has been extensively grasping at straws by denouncing the supposed ties of CHEGA to the ‘far-Right’ underworld but actual violence, undemocratic practices and corruption by the ruling Left barely get a mention.

Just in the past week, following criticism emanating from the farmers trade union (CAP) regarding the absence of government aid to deal with the current drought, PS’s Minister of Agriculture replied that the media should instead ask the trade union why they had not recommended their members to vote for the Socialist Party during the previous national election.

Conclusion

It is needless to say that if anything remotely similar were to take place in some Eastern European country under a right-wing government, the international institutions and the subsidised media would have already gone on to taint its international reputation.

In Portugal, we are only 6 months into PS’s newfound absolute majority in parliament, and the near future already resembles a Kafkaesque Marxist dystopia.


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