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    NewsEuropeThe Bloco de Esquerda faces its renewal one year after the electoral debacle in Portugal

    The Bloco de Esquerda faces its renewal one year after the electoral debacle in Portugal

    One year after suffering a dramatic setback at the polls, going from 19 to 5 deputies in the Portuguese Parliament, the Bloco de Esquerda (BE) faces its renewal. From being the hope of a certain urban left-wing progressivism less than a decade ago, it has gone to the corner of thinking, relegated to the role of a minority force that can no longer condition the policies of a socialist government with an absolute majority.

    The departure of Catarina Martins, who has been in charge of the formation as coordinator for 11 years, is the turning point of the new stage that will be decided at the next national convention in May. This meeting will mark the path of the Bloco for the coming times and also the beginning of a new leadership that, according to the Portuguese press, could be assumed by deputy Mariana Mortagua, an economist who has revealed herself as a seasoned parliamentarian on issues such as the turbulent management of the airline TAP or in commissions of investigation on the endless holes of the Portuguese bank.

    Martins announced on Tuesday his decision not to run for re-election. He considers that “the end of a political cycle” justifies the change in the leadership of the Bloco which, in his opinion, will have to face the “turn to the right imposed by Antonio Costa”. In his speech, he did not attribute the causes of his departure to the electoral setback experienced in January 2022, when the Socialists achieved an unexpected absolute majority and the far-right formation Chega snatched from the Bloco the place as the third political force that it had occupied since 2015.

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    But if Martins has responsibility for BE’s biggest setback, he also has it during his great victories. In 2015, with the country still shivering from years of tutelage of the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank), obtained 19 deputies and a place as the third parliamentary force. The triumph catapulted Catarina Martins, a long-time linguist, actress and activist, as one of the stars of the new European left, applauded when she reached an agreement with the Socialist Party to support a vote of no confidence that ousted the conservative Pedro Passos Coelho of the Government 11 days after the elections.

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    Catarina Martins and Antonio Costa sign the political agreement that supported the minority socialist government in 2015.PS

    With the backing of the Bloco and the Portuguese Communist Party in the vote of no confidence, the socialist Antonio Costa became prime minister in a political pirouette that stunned Europe. the geringonca. The two minority partners did not want to enter the Government, but they gave Costa parliamentary stability throughout the legislature. In exchange, they managed to reverse some of the harmful measures of the troika in terms of pensions, salaries, health and education. “The geringonca It was an extraordinary time in which the country improved”, Martins defended this Tuesday.

    The three former partners did not receive the same treatment when they went to the polls in 2019. Only the Socialists gained the upper hand (they went up in seats), while the Communists lost votes and the Bloco remained the same. This second legislature was born with another spirit. Costa did not want to sign political agreements that compromised him and he negotiated, one by one, the projects in which he needed parliamentary support. The prime minister never hid the fact that he had worse relations with Catarina Martins than with the communist leader Jeronimo de Sousa. But the refusal of both to support their third budgets precipitated the legislative elections in January 2022. “The absolute majority has confirmed that the Socialist Party was never satisfied with this path and is now reversing some of the gains of the geringoncaMartins lamented.

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    One of Martins’ last public acts before announcing his resignation was attending the historic teachers’ demonstration held last Saturday in Lisbon. Public policies in education and health have always been the main workhorses of the Bloco, founded in 1999 by Marxists, Trotskyists and socialists who participated in small left-wing parties. To this initial base, independents and social groups that defended causes such as environmentalism, feminism or the LGTBI movement would be added, which connected the party with urban voters who did not feel attracted by the discourse of the Communist Party, very focused on the old class struggle and disconnected from new social demands.


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