Sunday, February 25

The Portuguese extreme right against all

On April 8, the leader of the right-wing populist Chega party, André Ventura, took the platform of the Portuguese Parliament to participate in the debate on the program of the new government of the socialist António Costa. In his speech, Ventura made reference to the alleged attacks on police officers by people of Roma origin, something he described as the “paradise of impunity” for this group, which has been in the crosshairs of the far-right formation since its inception. foundation in 2018.

At that time, the newly appointed President of Parliament, the socialist Augusto Santos Silva, interrupted Ventura’s speech to give him a warning. “In Portugal there are no collective attributions of guilt,” assured Silva, who insisted that he would remove the word “as many times as necessary” whenever the speech is “injurious or offensive.” The words of the President of Parliament earned him a loud applause by the great majority of the deputies of the chamber, including those of the right-wing parties, and led Ventura to describe the action as an act of censorship.

Red lines

This has been one of several controversial episodes that the extreme right has starred in since the new legislature began in Portugal on March 29. A legislature marked by the absolute majority of the Socialist Party and by the emergence of Chega, who went from having a single deputy in Parliament to being the third political force with 12 representatives and with a 7.1% of the votes in the last legislative elections.

One of the issues on which Costa focused his speech on election night was his desire to isolate the extreme right, something that Santos Silva himself also dropped at his inauguration as president of Parliament. In the little more than 30 days of the new legislature, Chega has already been able to verify the red lines marked by the main parliamentary parties.

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An example of this has been the distribution of the vice-presidencies of the Parliament’s table. Both the PS and the main opposition party, the conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD) They chose to share the positions without leaving the option to Chega’s candidate, of Afro-descendant origin, who attributed the decision of the two main parties to racist motives.

Both the left and the right have tried to isolate the ultras, although a new conservative leadership could change the scenario

More power

The Lisbon University political scientist António Costa Pinto points out that negative coalitions to isolate Chega have been common in the first month of the legislature, but at the same time warns that the party’s ability to attract attention will be much older now. “There is an important difference now that Chega has its own parliamentary group. An example of this was in the celebrations of April 25 [el aniversario de la Revolución de los Claveles], in which Ventura made the usual speech of the populist radical right, with criticism of the nationalizations of that time and the defeats in the colonial war. But now he has much more presence in Parliament”.

In the commemoration of the anniversary of April 25, the deputies of Chega left parliament when the rest of the parliamentarians sang Grandola Vila Morena, one of the anthems of the revolution. The members of the ultra party thus intended express your disagreement with what they consider a democracy promoted, in its beginnings, by the most progressive sectors of society and whose Constitution does not represent the entire country.

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It remains to be seen if the chega isolation at the beginning of this legislature it will be maintained in the coming months. An important factor will be, according to Pinto, the new leader who leaves the PSD, once the current president, Rui Rio, leaves office at the end of May. “The main candidate to lead the PSD [Luis Montenegro] is having ambiguous positions about future relations between his party and Chega. This will have repercussions on parliamentary life, since the integration of the extreme right in Parliament depends on it, ”says the political scientist.

While waiting to know the position of the new social democratic leadership, everything indicates that the extreme right will try to encourage victimhood and at the same time move in an ambiguous space to try to attract supporters. “Chega has managed to reach sectors of society that do not express the values ​​of the radical right. Their objective is to grow electorally and they will bet on a flexible dynamic, which they will complement with moments of confrontation and victimization”, Pinto sentences.

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