It is the last State Budget in the current parliamentary term and covers the year 2019, during which three regional, European and legislative elections will take place. In this context, what will be the political strategy of the main parties? Asked by the Jornal Economico, two political scientists anticipate possible scenarios and identify the priority objectives of each party in the scope of negotiation and approval of OE2019.
With three elections in the near future, the PS government will resist the temptation to introduce electoral or popular measures in OE2019? "Of course the political command of the PS will be opportunist, like all ruling parties. And as they send the rules, in order to increase votes, he will declare, with all the solemnity of State discourses, that he regards electoralism as a sin. It will be more of the same, because, in politics, what appears is what it is. However, what is essential is going to be behind the scenes, the bargain that will be made regarding the agreement with PCP and BE, which will not even need the staging of a written agreement, "conjectures José Adelino Maltez, professor at the Higher Institute of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon.
"The current political and economic context may lead to the adoption of some electoral measures. This perspective is in keeping with the historical context and analysis of the state budgets of the last years, of different legislatures, as well as of the effort that the PS will seek to achieve in order to reach an absolute majority. Although in this particular case, one of the central measures, which is generally referred to, the increase in the minimum wage, has already been foreseen since the beginning of the legislature and in a gradual process, "answers Bruno Ferreira da Costa, professor of science Politics at the University of Beira Interior. "In other words, the increase in the minimum wage does not correspond in this case to a surprise or a last-minute measure in order to increase electoral support, but rather to a Government commitment for the entire legislature. On the other hand, the set of reinstatement measures adopted in recent years leaves some room for the current executive for major changes in fiscal policy or social benefits. "
"The measures will have to be more surgical and without a strong impact on the public accounts, both for the value of the public debt and for the presence of Mario Centeno in the leadership of the Eurogroup," continues Ferreira da Costa. "In opposition to some European ministers who have already admitted that it is important to overcome the shortfall stipulated for the realization of various public works, Centeno has the burden of having to be 'the example' for its counterparts in the rigor and control of the expenditure of the State. More than measures, the path will focus on political communication and the demonstration or comparison between the situation of the country in 2015 and currently. It is precisely on the media stage that the political discussion will focus, being this factor driven by the current composition of the leaderships on the right. "
From the point of view of BE and PCP, this will be the last opportunity to claim the popular measures credit, in order to obtain dividend dividends in 2019. Can this lead to conflicts in the OE2019 negotiation process? "The popular measures do not result from the prior qualification they receive from commentators and journalists. The only people that exist are the electoral people and this even likes to support what is a good that seems to him little voter. The problem is to find out what this electoral people thinks, something that only access certain winning politicians, holders of the intuition of the future ", argues Maltez.
"The current political environment allows us to verify that the OE2019 will be approved without major problems or divisions in the parties that underpin the Government led by António Costa. The action and speech of the President of the Republic in this area have also generated this perception. However, the BE and the PCP will seek to argue that the social benefits and the recovery of rights throughout the present legislature have been achieved due to the absence of an absolute majority of the PS. The electoral struggle of these parties will be to demonstrate the importance of their action in the negotiating context with the Executive and the added value of repeating or finding a next Government solution for the next four years. In this discussion of OE2019, the BE and PCP should go further to the level of requirements, while still approving the Executive's proposal. With this strategy they gain an argumentative space to demonstrate that with more power, more electoral strength, their positions could be sustainable, trying to demonstrate a PS incapable of adopting a policy fully left, "says Ferreira da Costa.
"However, they will not run the risk of not approving OE2019, being the last year of the legislature, which would call into question the image of success they seek to convey at the level of the political solution found in 2015. The positioning of the two parties in recent times has also allowed us to verify some willingness to integrate a future Government solution, which is to seduce the electorate and demonstrate that the 'useful vote' is unnecessary and that the way is to reproduce a majority of the left in the current molds. The elections to the European Parliament will be an important test for these two political forces, considering that the autarchic ones of 2017 already represented a penalization and considerable losses for both, focusing on the autarchies lost by the CDU. As the European Parliament elections are marked by a less conditioned vote, a bad result will always mean a serious warning signal for the legislatures of the same year, "he added.
Leadership of the opposition
How should PSD and CDS-PP be positioned relative to OE2019? Is the perception of who leads the opposition at stake? With what potential effects for the 2019 legislative elections? "Politics is a risk and a game. Those who do not risk do not snack. Rui Rio's PSD has already said that he wants to conquer the center, fishing in the social-democratic sea. The CDS-PP that retain its role of maintaining the electorate's 'portism'. And, apparently, Pedro Santana Lopes will measure himself, saying that Rui Rio wants to make a Santa Casa da Misericórdia with Costa. So the one who will distinguish is the common man. I do not risk a prognosis, "says Maltez.
From Ferreira da Costa's perspective, "Rui Rio's absence from Parliament and the existence of a parliamentary group that is averse to his leadership leaves room for maneuver to a strong and coherent position. In this area, the CDS-PP will have a more comfortable margin in the role of opposition to the Executive and the proposal of OE2019. It is expected that both parties opt for the vote against, although the dynamics of the debate may favor the CDS-PP, mainly because its leader is in the direct confrontation with António Costa. The invisibility assumed by Rui Rio can be a strong obstacle to the passage of his message, since it will be focused on solving the internal instability of the party and may have to concentrate on a possible early Congress. "
"Rui Rio will first have to break free of this internal debate to be seen, if he so wishes, as an alternative to the Government led by António Costa. And here the time runs against the Social-Democratic leadership. From its victory it lacks discourses and basic interventions, as well as argumentative coherence for the construction of a political program. This moment may be decisive for the assertion of his leadership and party expectations for next year's elections, where a strong candidate for the European Parliament could reduce the distance between the PSD and the PS and control the rise of the CDS-PP and the impact of the emergence of the Alliance. On the other hand, the various polls demonstrate the inability of the current leadership to seduce more than what is considered to be the PSD's faithful and classic electorate, at a time when the impact of new political forces on the right spectrum has not yet been measured Portuguese, "says Ferreira da Costa.
What influence will OE2019 have on the results of the next legislative elections? Can it be decisive? "The State Budget continues to be the fundamental decision of the public thing. The problem is that we continue to pretend that it is annual, when we know that it is only part of a multi-year process of European matrix, far surpassing the space of the sovereignty of the Portuguese voter. However, to the politicians of the government and of the opposition is convenient the ballet of the pretense, criticizes Maltez.
"I do not believe a significant impact, since the measurement of this impact would imply an in-depth knowledge on the part of the voter of the proposals and the content of the State Budget," says Ferreira da Costa. "The intricacies of politics are closed in a complex circle for the common citizen, the fruit of the action of the political class and the adoption of discourses out of common argumentative rhetoric. Approximately electing voters goes precisely by a simplification of the speech and by a careful and adequate explanation of the organic and the functioning of the State, and this process is time consuming and contrary to the interests of political parties. "
"More than the content or the proposals registered in OE2019, will be the discussion and media positioning of the parties and their leaders that will allow some electoral gain in the next elections, which given the current political context may favor the PS and CDS- PP, since they will constitute the opposite poles in the discussion and voting of the OE2019 ", concludes.