The Liberal Initiative obtained 29,120 votes in the Europeans, with 0.88% of the total. Given that you face a left-most PSD and a CDS-PP that are in dire straits, if you fail to double or more will the legislative outcome be a missed opportunity?
We are getting our message across as best we can. Given the obstacles we have, we try to do it the ways we can, on social networks and through posters, and in these two ways that only depend on us, on the quality of our work, we have done quite well and people admire the our work. I have not complained too much about this, but it is very complicated to get into the television channels, as parties without parliamentary representation must all be treated equally, and having 15 parties in that position is very difficult to have airtime. We do what depends well and we will do it until the end of the campaign. We present an ideological alternative, a set of ideas that, being new in the country, have already worked out there.
Are you ready to go a long way, as was the Left Block, to your claim in partisan chess?
If we look at the parties that succeeded in the Iberian Peninsula, from the most diverse quarters, from the PAN to the Left Bloc or to Ciudadanos, they all took some elections until they could make that big leap. Francisco Louçã had been running since the 1980s and was first elected in the late 1990s. We know the road can be long, but we also have a small hope that it can be shortened, that in these elections there is a possibility for the first time there is a liberal voice. That's what we work for every day, that's why we have the communication strategy we have, that we present our ideas. It is perfectly possible. Polls say this is possible. We don't know if the bipolarization that could happen in the last days of the campaign, as it happens in all campaigns…
Even now it happened in Madeira.
Madeira has special characteristics, but it is a risk we know: in recent days the whole media wave has been around who will win, whether PS or PSD, and people feel like entering the competition even knowing that the alternatives are not so different as that. We have seen the debates, which go a long way around “I have a Hundred and you too”, “you copied my measurements and me too”… It can be seen that there may be alternation, but there is no real ideological alternative. When people hear day after day that this is a competition between two parties, they want to play a part in that competition. And that is what has contributed to this drag of the same ruling parties.
In any case, if the elections on 6 October maintain or reinforce left hegemony, can this, paradoxically, be positive for the Liberal Initiative?
It can only be positive for the Liberal Initiative if liberal ideas win. Not winning is always negative, regardless of who rules. I said this as soon as I joined the party and have reinforced: we are primarily a party of ideas and we want those ideas to come and start to be absorbed. If certain ideas do not pass, and we are governed by parties that do not defend them, it would have been negative for us.
It is curious that your party is a pet hatred for the Left Block (BE) and much of the PS. Stick to the “alt right”, put your funding at home… Why is all this attention to a party that has no members yet?
I think the fear is really of ideas. We get this kind of hatred from BE and PS, which is more visible – because they are more – but also from the far right or the hard right. We have recurring messages from PNR and Chega militants on social networks calling us Marxists. This kind of hatred is directed against us not because they fear a huge outcome of the Liberal Initiative, but because they see us as a party of ideas and ideas often scare us more. To mess with this socialist consensus is more frightening than just having a result. We had 0.88% in Europeans and the next day we were again investing in the same messages, reinforcing them. The fear politicians have is that people realize that there is an ideological alternative that has worked. It may be new here but it worked everywhere it was implemented. There will be a day when people open their eyes and realize that there is an alternative. Something that is not simply theoretical, which worked in many places. We may have theoretical discussions about liberalism, but there is one feature: liberalism works. This is what we try to explain and what scares the leftist people.
If the debates between António Costa and Asunción Cristas are already very tight, what would happen if we debated with the prime minister?
We debate based on facts and statistics. Much of our communication is to show that liberalism works. It worked where it was implemented and all the countries that adopt these policies grow bigger. The richest countries today have adopted these policies in the past and some even today. I do not know if it would be broken, but Antonio Costa would have, for the first time, serious ideological opposition.
The most prominent measure in the Liberal Initiative electoral program is the 15% flat rate for the IRS on all incomes over 650 euros. Doesn't this further aggravate social inequalities?
No. First, because whoever earns more would continue to pay more. Those who earn two thousand euros would pay five times what they earn 800. There would still be a redistributive aspect. But what we argue is that redistribution must be done at the time of the provision of public services. Those who earn more pay more, but when it comes to public services everyone benefits equally, which is something that does not exist today. There is often talk of income redistribution, but those who live in the best neighborhoods of the richest cities have access to better public education and health. A parent of an Amadora child who wants to put his children in the best public school he could have access to, one here in Lisbon, like Filipa de Lencastre, cannot. Because? Because there is no freedom of choice. And we advocate this, both in education and in health, so that everyone, regardless of where they live and how rich their father or their parish, can have access to the best schools. So that schools are funded by the students they attract and not simply because they exist, that hospitals are funded by the care they give their users and not simply because they exist. Then, yes, there is inequality. I lived this situation on the skin because I grew up in Espinho, where there were two schools: one that was dedicated to students from the richest areas, and another that received those from the poorest. And the two schools were practically side by side. There were no differences in location or whatever. It was simply decided that students from the parishes around social neighborhoods should go to one school and the others to another. It was degrading. One school was clearly designed to take students to university, and the other, my own, designed just to hold them until compulsory school was over. There was no canteen, it was raining inside the rooms and nobody wanted to invest there, the children of the teachers of that school went to the other… And when we jumped to the secondary school level the students who stayed – at the time the compulsory education was until 9th. year – were again divided between two schools: one that was the High School, where the students of the good school went, and the other that was called Industrial, where the vocational education was. There was no choice. The inequality that the state imposes is this: it is restricting access to the best schools, the best hospitals, depending on where people live. We cannot accept this.
They also want to ensure that any decentralization process does not result in duplication of services and costs. What do they say about regionalization?
Before we talk about the decentralization model, we have to talk about the principles of decentralization. One principle is that of responsibility. That is, that the local bodies are as responsible for the revenues as for the expenses. Local authorities cannot, as they are today, be central spending centers. This removes any incentive for efficiency and makes local authorities dependent on the central state, with no effective local government. Second, any decentralization process must be tax neutral. This is very important, not only for controlled public spending, but also for public acceptance of decentralization, because the biggest argument against decentralization (and what respect) is that we are going to create a second tier of public spending. Every euro that goes towards local government, whatever the model, has to be subtracted from the central state. There can be no other question. Going for this model or that is not worth it until we decide the pillars: accountability and fiscal neutrality. From here we can build any model as long as these are the pillars.
They also want the end of lifetime grants. It's not a nonsense given that the Liberal Initiative's national representative [Zita Seabra] Are you one of the beneficiaries?
We are against lifetime grants, and Zita Seabra herself voted against lifetime grants as a Member. In her view, the right existing and her being in the same condition to receive it as everyone else should exercise that right. For example, I use freeways that I think should never have been built, but as they are there I use them. Zita Seabra was a person who at age 18 fought against the Estado Novo, at age 40 he fought against the Central Committee of the PCP and at 70 he embraced this fight, with nothing to gain. You are a person with immense courage.
In the political system they argue for limiting universal mandates to five-year public office. Wouldn't that make it harder to execute and complete proposals?
This question goes against an idea that I like to contradict, which is "politics is made of people." It should not be. Politics is made of ideas. We have often heard that everyone knows the ideas of the Liberal Initiative, but no one knows the leader. I say, good. Politics must be made up of ideas above all, and ideas are independent of the people who come up with them. We have been discussing for a long time in each election who is more serious, who is less serious. I have my personal considerations about Dr. Rui Rio and António Costa, as do many people. But what about the ideas? It is the ideas that govern the country, not the people José Sócrates could have been the most serious and most honest Prime Minister in the world who would still have ruined the country because he had the wrong ideas. It was not for its eventual lack of seriousness and honesty that the country went bankrupt. It was because I had the wrong ideas. We have to talk about ideas and ideas are independent of people. The big problem with always having the same people is that they cling to power. PS has had the same people for 20 years. António Guterres, José Sócrates, António Costa. They are exactly the same people. These are people who have no alternative outside of politics and who, even outside of politics, will make politics for boards of directors. We do not want that. We do not want people who depend on politics, because they will always be attached to it and will be more susceptible to less honest maneuvering and corruption to stay in politics. Hence the importance of changing people from time to time, because what really matters is ideas.
On the contrary, the Liberal Initiative, among its candidates, is very marked by having people linked to the management of private companies, with little or no links to the state. Would you say that nothing is learned in the state?
In the state and in companies, one always learns. You learn everywhere. The problem is that we have a state machine, especially in senior cadres, which has been infiltrated by the same people for twenty years. This is not a breeding ground for people who want to change the state of affairs. It is the people who have worked in private companies and who, like me, have spent a lot of time abroad and who do not depend on the current state machine, who have this ability to change the rules.
If you were asked to make a robot portrait of your militants and supporters, what would you say?
Generally, they are people who do not have a great past in politics and who have careers outside politics with some success. They are in their 30s and 40s and now they have decided to come to politics because they think they can make a difference.
If the Liberal Initiative were not in the ballot papers, what do you think its supporters and leaders would do in these elections?
Many would possibly not vote. We have received many messages from supporters saying they did not vote in the other elections and would not vote. Among us, there would eventually be those who voted for PSD and PS and others would vote blank.
One thing that can probably be haunted to you at the end of the election night is that some rogue PSD and CDS deputies may not be elected in their circles by scattering votes, notably for the Liberal Initiative.
This is a wrong view. We will get many people who would never vote for these parties. It is a dangerous sight, because if it does, it puts us in a prison where we can never escape the alternation because we are stealing anything. We have to think about who brings new ideas that can change things. Right now there are zero votes for everyone. We are starting from scratch and we need to look at ideas, not brands and faces.