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Cablegate: Portuguese Prime Minister Presents Government

VZCZCXRO7929
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHLI #0567 3071914
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031914Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY LISBON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7958
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS LISBON 000567

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI PO
SUBJECT: PORTUGUESE PRIME MINISTER PRESENTS GOVERNMENT
PROGRAM

REF: A. LISBON 516
B. LISBON 529

1. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates presented the
Socialist government program to Parliament on November 2.
This is the policy agenda that will guide his government for
the next four years. As noted in ref A, on September 27
Socrates and the Socialists were elected to a second
four-year term, but will now operate as a minority government.

2. The program highlights public investment to combat the
economic crisis, job creation, modernization of the economy,
and social policies. Among its priorities, the Socialist
Party seeks to legalize same-sex marriage, strengthen
measures to combat corruption, promote regionalization (i.e.,
redrawing Portugal's internal maps), and construct the
Lisbon-Madrid high-speed rail link and a new airport in
Lisbon. Socrates reiterated his campaign promise to support
30,000 small and medium-sized companies per year and to
reduce taxes for the middle class.

3. Debate on the evaluation system for public school teachers
(ref B), a contentious issue during the last government, will
be among the first challenges to test the minority
government's negotiation skills and new Education Minister
Isabel Alcada. The opposition has already indicated its
intent to suspend the evaluation system that was approved by
the last government.

4. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Jorge Lacao stressed
that the 129-page government program will be the basis for
future negotiations with the opposition. Opposition leaders
criticized the program as a mere clone of the Socialist
Party's campaign platform. They complained that the
Socialists failed to recognize that they no longer have an
absolute majority in Parliament and must accommodate the
views of other parties.

5. Comment: Parliament has five days to debate the
government program, during which time any parliamentary group
may propose its rejection by an absolute majority floor vote.
In the absence of a rejection motion, the program will be
approved. Given the number of votes necessary to reject the
program and the reluctance of opposition groups to be viewed
as obstacles, the program is likely to pass. However, the
Socialist minority government will face numerous challenges
in advancing its agenda, particularly on divisive issues,
such as same-sex marriage and the teacher evaluation system.
The next hurdle will be approval of the 2010 budget, probably
in January 2010, which will require Socrates to obtain some
support from the opposition.


For more reporting from Embassy Lisbon and information about Portugal,
please see our Intelink site:

http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/portal:port ugal
BALLARD

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