A Constitutional Crisis in Portugal?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written a bit of a barn-burner over at The Telegraph this weekend:

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.

Some of Pritchard’s rhetoric is clearly overdone; an action by a democratically elected official may be controversial, and may be unwise—but this isn’t a coup. However, moves like this risk undermining support for EU longterm in Portugal—and elsewhere in the EU.

The core problem remains: on issue after issue after issue, the name of the EU is being invoked to justify policies that growing numbers of European citizens don’t just oppose, but actively hate. There are good arguments for forced acceptance of refugees to draconian austerity policies, but imposing them on unwilling people is a dangerous thing to do.

At the moment, the EU is in trouble from Lisbon to Latvia, and there are no signs yet that the powers that be have found a way forward. The EU with all its faults and flaws is one of the most important pillars of global stability in an increasingly shaky world; the steady erosion of Europe’s cohesion and esprit is a terrible thing to watch.

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