Portugal: key mistake in Costa corruption allegations

Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa stepped down last week over a press release by the Public Prosecutor’s Service raising the possibility of legal proceedings against him for corruption. It has now emerged that the public prosecutor’s office made a serious mistake in the transcription of a phone call wiretap, confusing António Costa with Economy Minister António Costa Silva. Groans from the press.

Expresso (PT) /

A boon for conspiracy theorists

The behaviour of the Public Prosecutor’s Office plays into the hands of right-wing populists in particular, essayist Henrique Raposo writes in Expresso:

“The Public Prosecutor’s office made a ridiculous mistake with the wiretapping. ... In other words, the soundtrack to all this is comical, a circus performance. But the laughter will be short-lived because one thing is clear: the Public Prosecutor’s Office is currently a de facto ally of the [right-wing populist] Chega party, which also cultivates conspiracy theories about democracy and the economy according to the motto: ‘They’re all crooks’. ... Anyone who doesn’t see that hasn’t understood what’s going on around us.”

Henrique Raposo
Público (PT) /

Major political crisis

This is a heavy blow for Portugal’s democracy, writes columnist Carmo Afonso in Público:

“A prime minister elected with an absolute majority has resigned over a paragraph [from the press release of the public prosecutor’s office] that was the result of at least one mistake. ... I am not writing this in defence of António Costa, but in defence of the democratic system. ... We are facing the most serious political crisis in the history of our democracy. The generalised mistrust of the political class now seems to be official. ... The question is: was this necessary? Very little is known about the investigation at this point, but it raises major doubts about the sustainability of the process.”

Carmo Afonso
El País (ES) /

A bitter campaign ahead

In El País, political scientist António Costa Pinto looks ahead to the upcoming battle for votes:

“[Ex-infrastructure minister Pedro] Nuno Santos left the socialist PS government almost two years ago and would opt to form alliances with the parties to his left. ... On the right, the PSD will try to form a coalition with the populist far right [Chega party]. ... During its eight years in power the socialist government put an end to the money wasting that bankrupted the state in the last decade. Now the right will do everything it can to push it into opposition. ... The elections will be tough. ... Will the two mainstream parties be replaced by the hard left and hard right? I don’t think so. But everything points to major confrontations.”

António Costa Pinto