On the eve of the beginning of its campaign this Monday, the socialists held a big lunch rally in Viseu on Sunday. All the lead socialists were present: the lead Portuguese candidate, Pedro Marques, the lead European candidate, Frans Timmermans, and António Costa, the Portuguese Prime Minister.
“The Socialist Party (PS) is not a closed party”, claimed Costa, moving on to defending “it has the unique quality to make friends everywhere, even with those who compete with us for votes”, on a clear mention to his capacity to create and maintain a partnership with parties further to the left than his own party – the Left Bloc (‘Bloco de Esquerda’), the Communist Party (PCP) and the Ecologist Party “The Greens” (PEV).
Moving on to the European level, Costa claimed: “From Tsipras to Macron, we will manage to build a big progressive front [in Europe], which will be able to make the necessary changes. We cannot have in charge who tried to punish us, as if austerity wasn’t enough of a punishment.”
He then proceeded to lead a repeated shout of support to the lead European socialist candidate “Frans! Frans! Frans!” On his side, the Dutch Frans Timmermans centered his speech on Costa’s leadership and persuasion skills.
But coming back to Costa’s European statement, a bit of parallel context: this Saturday, in Strasbourg, Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance platform hosted a meeting with other political parties, which will form a pro-european centrist group in the European Parliament after the elections at the end of May. At the gathering, almost all the participants at the meeting were ALDE-affiliated, with exception to Italy’s Democratic Party, lead by former Italian PM Matteo Renzi, and Portugal’s Socialist Party.
António Costa – as Matteo Renzi – sent a video message in french to show his support for the project. Many deemed this surprising, a sign of instability of the role of the European S&D in Lisbon. Furthermore, would some Portuguese socialists join this group instead of S&D?
I believe not. This is classic Costa at work. He said so himself at the rally in Viseu the very next day, with Timmermans in the audience. He is a loyal socialist, a stronghold, but will not close himself in his party and will reach out to form alliances if necessary.
He did so in government: he formed a parliamentary partnership with parties further to the left in order to reach majority to rule and form a government. None of these parties holds a Ministerial position though, only parliamentary seats – there is where he draw a line.
In my opinion, European-wise, he will establish a limit at the S&D and the Portuguese socialist MEPs will be indeed S&D affiliated. There’s higher chances for them to get high-profile roles and responsibilities and to get political credit for it. However, more ‘winks’ to other center and left movements are bound to happen, it’s Costa’s style.