Portugal unveils new government after hung polls

The 51-year-old lawyer was last week asked to form a government (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)
The 51-year-old lawyer was last week asked to form a government (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)

Portugal's new centre-right Prime Minister Luis Montenegro unveiled his cabinet Thursday, after his centre-right coalition barely managed to emerge top in a badly fractured parliament.

The 51-year-old lawyer was last week asked to form a government after the March 10 polls, which had resulted in a hung parliament.

Although the far-right party Chega party became the third-largest party after Montenegro's Social Democratic Party and the Socialists, he has refused to make any deals with them.

But he will not have a stable working majority.

Late Thursday Montenegro sent his list of 17 ministers to President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa then left the presidential palace without making a statement.

The list includes experienced politicians in key positions, including the ministries of finance, economy and foreign affairs, according to a statement released by the president's office.

Euro-deputy Paulo Rangel will serve as foreign minister, while Joaquim Miranda Sarmento, the former parliamentary leader of Montenegro's party, will take the finance portfolio.

Pedro Reis, who headed the government agency for trade and  investment, has been appointed to the Ministry of the Economy.

Montenegro's minority government, which includes seven women, will assume power next Tuesday, bringing an end to eight years of Socialist rule.

- Fragmented parliament -

The Democratic Alliance, a coalition anchored by Montenegro's centre-right Social Democrat Party (PSD) that includes two smaller conservative parties, received 28.8 percent of the vote and won 80 seats in the 230-seat parliament.

The Socialist Party of outgoing premier Antonio Costa won 28 percent of the ballot and 78 seats. The far-right Chega -- "Enough" in Portuguese -- soared to 50 deputies from 12 in the previous assembly.

For days, the badly fragmented parliament was unable to elect a speaker.

Finally, the PSD and the Socialists agreed to share the role, with the PSD's Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco holding the position until September 2026 before passing it to a Socialist.

The new government faces calmer seas on the financial and economic front.

It inherits a budget surplus of 1.2 percent of gross domestic product, only the second such annual surplus since Portugal returned to democratic rule in 1974.

Outgoing prime minister Costa met his successor Wednesday, saying he was leaving office with a "sense of duty accomplished" despite having wished he had progressed further on some issues such as health.

"The new government will certainly have plenty of problems to resolve," he added.