Europe "Crosses Rubicon" As Portugal Usurps Democracy, Bans Leftist Government

Tyler Durden's picture

On Thursday evening, we took a close look at how the political landscape has changed in Portugal following inconclusive elections held earlier this month. 

For those unaware, the worry in Brussels has always been that either Spain, Portugal or, in a less likely scenario, Italy, would go the way of Greece by electing politicians that would seek to roll back austerity, shun fiscal rectitude, and demand debt relief. 

As we’ve noted on any number of occasions over the past nine months, that’s why Berlin adopted such a hardline approach to negotiations with Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis. There was never any hope of setting Athens on a “sustainable path.” It was always about deterring more “meaningful” states from going the Syriza route. 

Well as it turns out, the troika’s efforts to subvert the democratic process in Greece by using the purse string to overthrow the government apparently did not deter the Portuguese leftists. Put differently, the ATM lines, empty shelves, and gas station queues Greece witnessed over the summer have not had their intended psychological effect in Portugal as Socialist leader Antonio Costa announced earlier in the week that he’s prepared to align with the Communists and with Left Bloc to form a government in defiance of the Right-wing coalition. The Left alliance would have an absolute majority in parliament and would likely adopt an anti-austerity, and perhaps even an anti-euro, platform.

In an effort to head off this eventuality, President Anibal Cavaco Silva appointed Pedro Passos Coelho to serve another term as PM on Thursday. That was a slap in the face for Costa, and as we noted just moments after the announcement, Silva’s decision is likely to leave Portugal mired in an intractable political stalemate which is just about the last thing Europe needs as Brussels attempts to put the Greek debacle in the rearview while confronting the worsening refugee crisis. 

Sure enough, Costa is now threatening to topple the government on the heels of what is widely viewed as an usurpation of democracy. Here’s Reuters

Portugal's opposition Socialists pledged on Friday to topple the centre-right minority government with a no-confidence motion, saying the president had created "an unnecessary political crisis" by nominating Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister.


The move could wreck Passos Coelho's efforts to get his centre-right government's programme passed in parliament in 10 days' time, extending the political uncertainty hanging over the country since an inconclusive Oct. 4 election.


This set up a confrontation with the main opposition Socialists, who have been trying to form their own coalition government with the hard left Communists and Left Bloc, who all want to end the centre-right's austerity policies.


"The president has created an unnecessary political crisis" by naming Passos Coelho as prime minister," Socialist leader Antonio Costa said.


The Socialists and two leftist parties quickly showed that they control the most votes when parliament reopened on Friday, electing a Socialist speaker of the house and rejecting the centre-right candidate.


"This is the first institutional expression of the election results," Costa said. "In this election of speaker, parliament showed unequivocally the majority will of the Portuguese for a change in our democracy."


Antonio Barroso, senior vice president of the Teneo Intelligence consultancy in London, said Costa was likely to threaten any Socialist lawmaker with expulsion if they vote for the centre-right government's programme.


"Therefore, the government is likely to fall, which will put the ball back on the president's court," Barroso said in a note.

And here’s more from The Telegraph on the effort to undercut the democratic process:

Portugal has entered dangerous political waters. For the first time since the creation of Europe’s monetary union, a member state has taken the explicit step of forbidding eurosceptic parties from taking office on the grounds of national interest.


Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal’s constitutional president, has refused to appoint a Left-wing coalition government even though it secured an absolute majority in the Portuguese parliament and won a mandate to smash the austerity regime bequeathed by the EU-IMF Troika.


He deemed it too risky to let the Left Bloc or the Communists come close to power, insisting that conservatives should soldier on as a minority in order to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets.

Democracy must take second place to the higher imperative of euro rules and membership.


“In 40 years of democracy, no government in Portugal has ever depended on the support of anti-European forces, that is to say forces that campaigned to abrogate the Lisbon Treaty, the Fiscal Compact, the Growth and Stability Pact, as well as to dismantle monetary union and take Portugal out of the euro, in addition to wanting the dissolution of NATO,” said Mr Cavaco Silva.


“This is the worst moment for a radical change to the foundations of our democracy.


"After we carried out an onerous programme of financial assistance, entailing heavy sacrifices, it is my duty, within my constitutional powers, to do everything possible to prevent false signals being sent to financial institutions, investors and markets,” he said.


Mr Cavaco Silva argued that the great majority of the Portuguese people did not vote for parties that want a return to the escudo or that advocate a traumatic showdown with Brussels.


This is true, but he skipped over the other core message from the elections held three weeks ago: that they also voted for an end to wage cuts and Troika austerity. The combined parties of the Left won 50.7pc of the vote. Led by the Socialists, they control the Assembleia.


The Socialist leader, Antonio Costa, has reacted with fury, damning the president’s action as a “grave mistake” that threatens to engulf the country in a political firestorm.


“It is unacceptable to usurp the exclusive powers of parliament. The Socialists will not take lessons from professor Cavaco Silva on the defence of our democracy,” he said.


Mr Costa vowed to press ahead with his plans to form a triple-Left coalition, and warned that the Right-wing rump government will face an immediate vote of no confidence.

Note what's happened here. The will of the people is now being characterized as a "false signal" to "financial institutions, investors, and markets."

In other words, what voters want means nothing. This is about what "markets" and "financial instiutions" want. What the electorate wants is nothing more than a "false signal." 

This is precisely what we predicted would happen should the political situation in Portugal not unfold in a way that pleases Berlin and Brussels. Germany and, to a lesser extent, the IMF are now in complete control of the European political process. There's no "democracy" left. It's either get with the austerity program and stick with it, or face the consequences which, as we saw with Greece, could entail the closure of banks and the willful destruction of the economy. 

We can however, take solace in the fact that Cavaco Silva's attempts to appease financial markets will invariably backfire, because if there's anything investors hate, it's uncertainty and the move to reappoint Passos Coelho will only serve to bring about a protracted political conflict with the Left. Watch Portuguese bond yields next week for hints as to whether the President's decision has achieved the stated goal of calming "investors" and "markets."

We'll close with the following quote from The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

Mr Cavaco Silva is effectively using his office to impose a reactionary ideological agenda, in the interests of creditors and the EMU establishment, and dressing it up with remarkable Chutzpah as a defence of democracy.


The Portuguese Socialists and Communists have buried the hatchet on their bitter divisions for the first time since the Carnation Revolution and the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship in the 1970s, yet they are being denied their parliamentary prerogative to form a majority government.


This is a dangerous demarche. The Portuguese conservatives and their media allies behave as if the Left has no legitimate right to take power, and must be held in check by any means.


These reflexes are familiar – and chilling – to anybody familiar with 20th century Iberian history, or indeed Latin America. That it is being done in the name of the euro is entirely to be expected.

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Save_America1st's picture
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

~ Benjamin Franklin


Newsboy's picture

They had to respond with lightning speed this time.

No time for an adequate smoke screen.

What next?

HowdyDoody's picture

"it is my duty, within my constitutional powers, to do everything possible to prevent false signals being sent to financial institutions, investors and markets"

The whole market is a fake, you fscking moron. The figures are fucked five ways into falsehood.


SofaPapa's picture

"He deemed it too risky to let the Left Bloc or the Communists come close to power, insisting that conservatives should soldier on as a minority in order to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets.  Democracy must take second place to the higher imperative of euro rules and membership."

There you have it, folks, in black and white.  The choice could not be any clearer.  Do national borders have meaning anymore or not?  Either the Portuguese are allowed to rule Portugal according to people they elect, or they must cede political control to the people running the euro project.  What's it going to be?  Is Portugal a sovereign state?  The title of the article is not exaggeration in this case.  Greece was betrayed by Tsipras, but at least Tsipras won the vote (he lied 100% about what people would get if they elected him, but he won).  Those in charge of the euro project no longer have time for niceties like pretending the people of Portugal have a choice at all.    Europe is the "higher imperative".  Are the people of Portugal willing to accept that?  Which is more important to them?  To be Portuguese or to be European?  We shall see.

macholatte's picture


OK OK Okay
No how can I make money on this shit?

philipat's picture

"Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”"

As in you have the liberty to choose between another Bush and another Clinton?

stacking12321's picture

no. those are the 2 wolves.

liberty is the freedom to reject both.

contesting the vote doesn't necessarily mean disputing the outcome of the vote; in this case i interpret it to mean, contesting the propriety of the wolves' voting to eat the lamb in the first place.

Uchtdorf's picture

It's also good to remember that while socialists and communists may mean the same thing in the US and Europe, conservative certainly does not.

lakecity55's picture

We must appease the B for IS and the other International Financiers. Free and Fair Elections can only exist when their results meet the approval of Brussels.

TheReplacement's picture

We all know that.  He knows that.  The sheeple don't know that.  By making that statement he is, by implication, telling the sheeple that capitalism requires authoritarianism.  And they'll believe every unsaid word of it.

TBT or not TBT's picture

If and when keeping leftist utopians out of power requires authoritarianism that's exactly what good men should step in to insure.   Lefitist utipians always produce misery and blood baths.   I include here mugabe types, Allende types, but also nationalist socialists like Hitler and Mussolini.   Way to go Portugal.  You learned from history.  

BarkingCat's picture


What the hell does insurance have to do with anything?



yeah, /sarc

HenryHall's picture

"Insure" is New World usage (Yankspeak) for English "ensure". As well as for English "insure".

globozart's picture

This is another good one for a T-shirt. I think with this one we got himself a better place in history.


... once people understand what he just said. It's a complex statement.

Sergeiab's picture

Indeed, smoke screens are blown away too easily these days, why bother?

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

The stage is decorated solely for our entertainment. When it no longer matters whether the brick wall in the back is covered or not, they no longer are willing to take the time to maintain the illusion.

The end is near. This I do not fear. It is what replaces the present day reality which is most disconcerning.


On another note....please stop by and read my latest essay (A Failure of Imagination) at

freedserf's picture

They HAVE to hit bottom first. As you have noted.

Way to many gleeful people at present to call a bottom. Need a lot more abominations of self.

omniversling's picture

"You can have any colour you want, so long as we chose it" (with apols to Mr Ford)

swmnguy's picture

That's not a Benjamin Franklin quote.  Neal Boortz, maybe.  But not Ben Franklin.  The word "Lunch" didn't appear in English until decades after he died, and he never said anything like the second sentence.  That quote is newer than the internet, for instance.

BarkingCat's picture

the quotes I have seen said "dinner"

stacking12321's picture

why u gotta go and be ants at the picnic?

factgasm's picture

Plato said that Democracy was like going to the butchers for a hair cut (clearly a dangerous activity: mind that cleaver!).

Since Plato and Lincoln, we have had the advent of education for the masses and the mechanisms for testing each and every individual and awarding them appropriate grades. We have also had the rise of the internet, with notable successes such as sites like Facebook that get hundreds of millions of hits a day.

If we were to combine methods from mass education with the instant mass communication the internet provides, we will have a means to allow the people to govern themselves without the need for elected (and corruptible) representatives, a system where the better your understanding of a topic, the bigger say you have in it.

The democracy we are familiar with today is 'Representative Democracy', a specific form of democracy and an evolution of the Magna Consilium formed under William The Conqueror after his invasion of England in 1066. That system was never designed to consider what each and every individual brings to the table, it was designed to suppress it. All it gives you is chance to put an X next to red or blue once every four or five years and pays no attention to your education, your expertise or your experience as an individual. That's the same system your great, great, great, great grandparents would have known.

This is the 21st century, so can't we do any better? You bet we can! Watch this space.

Urban Redneck's picture

Plato was an elitist oligarch loving fascist. He argued for for exactly the the sort of tyrannical rule by the educated technocrat elite that we have today (no wonder Leo Strauss and his disciples were and are such fans).  The edumacated masses were... well, edumacated, instead of educated.

The number of people at Zerohedge who argue that the OPPRESSION OF THE 99% by a tyrannical 1% is somehow morally superior and desireable to the oppression of only 49% by a tyrannical 51% is mind boggling.

I guess the Cliff Notes edumacation version skipped over all those parts about serving self interest versus serving the common interest.

Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke, Paul Krugman ... all are textbook examples of Philosopher Kings.

Yes, a functioning democracy (or more specificall a politeia requires an educated and moral citizenry, but without that the polis will collapse.  Whereas, with an educated and immoral elite, a polis (more often translated as a republic) can mantain the status quo almost indefinitely



Troy Ounce's picture

Follow the money! Every war is a bankers war.



JR's picture

The bankers built the EU and they built it for the bankers.

SofaPapa's picture

Broadening your focus a bit, other multinationals also like the larger blocs.  The bankers are at the head of the list, but corporations in general love large political entities, because it's simpler to manipulate one political system than several.  Humans are allowing individual creativity to be stamped out and replaced by corporate slavery.  This is a global problem.

ThirdWorldDude's picture

This is not a precedent and shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Remember Jörg Heider? Well, when he was elected Austrian Chancellor, EU treaties towards Austria were "temporarily suspended", that is until EU got the Austrian Govt. that they wanted. Then there's the more recent event of EU's staged coup d'etat in Italy in order to remove Berlusconi from office. And just a few months ago the EU technocrats had the audacity to demand (and get) the removal of Varoufakis from the Greek negotiating team...


"There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties."  


JC Junker

roccman's picture

No, every war is a magician war.

Banks are a part of the slave class.

seabiscuit's picture least Goldman has some damn fine sheets.

EuroPox's picture

I know it has been said before but: Fuck the EU!  Undemocratic bastards.

Sorry, make that anti-democratic bastards.

Peter Pan's picture

It really is quite amusing to see the right act like the communists did in decades gone past. So much for ideology. There is no ideology. It is simply about clinging to power and damn the plebs.

agent default's picture

What right. Most of EU bodies are full of former communists and Marxists.  Take Barozzo former EU commissioner , he was a garden variety Maoist who turned to the center right.  Merkel, was head of the communist youth.  It is all the same anywhere you look.  There is no right wing in Europe anymore.

Memedada's picture

There is no right wing in Europe? The political establishment of Europe is predominantly right wing. Maybe not as blatantly fascist as in US, but still in the pockets of the capitalist class (=right wing). Like US, Europe is an economic system by and for the ownership-class (the capitalist class that have evolved into a de facto neo-feudal class of rentiers).

I know it’s futile, but since language is the most important tool we have to challenge the dominant narrative of the corporate propaganda machine, I’ll keep (and attempt) to demand definitions of the terms used:

Capitalism: an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production (since about everything in EU/US is privately owned – including by all relevant measures the state itself – we live in a capitalist world).

Socialism: an economic system based on the public and/or social/common ownership of the means of production.

The size, role and authoritative (or not) character of the state is not defining of what economic system that state is serving. You can – in a capitalist economy – have high taxes, substantial redistribution, social rights (like the Scandinavian countries) etc. etc. A huge state – like the war-state of US – can easily be capitalist.

Yes, you can argue for a different form of capitalism (based on some mythical concept of ‘free markets’ and/or less government) but that does not change the current system into something not capitalist. Monopoly capitalism, state capitalism, fascism and free market capitalism or all versions of capitalism.

Ghordius's picture

a different way to say that is that the conservatives in Europe more often then not form the largest party in parliament

a fact that can be highlighted by the very elections in Portugal that we are discussing here: the party (Portugal_Ahead) that received most votes is conservative, "christian democrat" (and has a classic liberal wing), and received 107 seats out of 230

a small detail that completely escapes most readers and viewers of the US and UK media landscape. ask why?

Al Gophilia's picture

I find myself amused that anyone can still hold onto the notion that democracy, a divisionary tool,  is the unifing  key to unshackling ourselves from the chains of  servititude and domestication. For thousands of years, the dominance of thef Deep State elitists have controlled the lives of people born naturally to this world,  using their productivity as a resource.  We have been trained (not educated) to place our faith and hope into the hands of tyrants ( our representatives, as well meaning as they pupport to be), whose well established ploy of farming the masses for their own ends is abundantly and clearly recorded, and as this example proves yet again.

De-mock-racy. Bury it. Let's get back to limited local government. I'm sick of being trampled on by conniving back room swindlers who my vote doesn't affect, aren't you?

HenryHall's picture

We need a system wherein legislators are not allowed to personally profit. That is not profit any more than the poorest section of society.

Russia has made a start by prohibiting Duma members from holding foreign assets.

Sudden Debt's picture

In Belgium, there's a Cordon Sanitaire against political parties who are against Europe.

A cordon sanitaire mains they get no media coverage unless it's negative, they can't join debates and they are not allowed to use governement communication services. Which is about 90%.

It worked to destroy those parties, as people saw only the negative things.

Motorhead's picture

Did that freak from Mons/Bergen, DiRupo, have anything to do with it?

Bananamerican's picture

wow SD, I'm glad nothing like that happened to Occupy Wall Sstreet here in amerika.....btw, whatever happened to that bunch of dirty stinking hippies with their confused political platform?

Pure Evil's picture

The National Socialist Bankster Police State broke it over their knee just like in the WWF.

itstippy's picture

You can bet the Occupy Wall Street crowd is still living in tents, holding drum circles, doing face painting, smoking marijuana, and having indiscriminate sex.  Those filthy "anti-establishment" types never change.

Whatever happened to the zany "Tea Party" misfits with their frock coats, three-cornered hats, and hand bells that used to read proclamations from scrolls on street corners?  They were a hoot too.  

The nightly news isn't as entertaining without coverage of the OWS and TEA loony-toons.  They were fun.  Now all we get is updates on the latest mass shooting rampage by some gun nut with one of those horrid assault weapons.

EDIT: Hmm - down votes.  I guess I need to add the "/sarc" tag.  I shouldn't have to do that; it's pretty obvious sarcasm.


formadesika3's picture

Mr itstippy, it's because concerned citizens are demanding answers to the gun violence. Do you think these crazy people are just popping out of the woodwork at random?

No, more than likely it is a positive feedback loop where the focus of attention creates its own reality. The circus in Syria isn't enough to pull anyone's attention away from our own brand of domestic random 'lone-wolf' violence and so a black hole media spectacle devours its viewers, capturing their emotional energy amid a self-congratulatory public attention flurry surrounding the question of gun ownership.

Hillary is gaining in the polls because of it at the expense of Bernie because he represents the people of Vermont, the single laissez-faire gun rights state in the eastern U.S. An anomaly for which he is suffering at the polls. He has trouble defending his record because of it. I'm not confident of his chances. Nobody cares about Benghazi.

lakecity55's picture

Mr Big: "Dammit, professor, we need moar MKULTRA operatives."
Prof: "It takes time, sir. They must be programmed. Programmed to acquire, to strike, and to commit suicide before capture."
"Well, we'll just stage things."
"Like Sandy Hook? My methods are sound, Mr Big."
"America must be disarmed! Disarmed, I tell you."
"Calm down and let me get back to my programming. A new batch of drugs and recruits came in today. They are still unconcious, but I'll be busy soon enough."

agent default's picture

That's because people in Belgium still have it easy and don't pay attention.  Wait until austerity begins to bite and we will see if anyone gives a fuck about what the media has to say.

JustObserving's picture

No wonder NATO was so keen to spread democracy in Libya - Europe has the most freedoms as long as they follow American orders. Goldman would be so perturbed with a leftist government in Portugal.  And that matters so mcuh more than what the citizens of Portugal want.

Perhaps, they need a new Operation Gladio to keep leftists out of Europe

Operation Gladio first came to light in Italy in 1990, after over 40 years of clandestine operations. Members of the project revealed that similar projects existed in most if not all countries of Western Europe.[1] These stay-behind networks were, in essence, super secret armies in at least 14 European countries, which were kept secret from the official governmental structures of the host countries – being controlled by other forces such as the CIA and MI6. They remained mostly dormant but were also involved in anti-communist activities including anti-democratic agitation and false flag terrorism.


r0mulus's picture

Gladio B- "the west" vs "islam"- is already well underway at this point. Gladio A- "the west" vs socialism/communism- never really ended. Don't mistake any "disclosures" for any kind of end to that program- any exposed compartments (as in Italy) simply dissolved away from it's compartmentalized structure! The body remained intact, and remains intact today.