With the reelection of President Antonio Ramalho Eanes and the resignation of the ruling right-wing Democratic Alliance Dec. 8, the final and greatest gamble of the Alliance has collapsed. All it can do now is try to pick up the pieces.
Humiliated by the resounding defeat of their presidential candidate, Alliance leaders have begun searching for some sort of face-saving compromise with the man they tried to force from power.
The election results showed that General Eanes had won a second term thanks to the desertion of large numbers of Alliance voters, who did not hesitate to join Communists and Socialists to vote him back into office. Such a combination has given him unique power. He an now claim to be the country's only real national leader, or, in the words of his campaign slogan, the president of all the Portuguese.
The death of Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro has orphaned the Alliance and left President Eanes as the only political strong man to fill the power vacuum. The leadership crisis within the Democratic Alliance and the government , his own sweeping victory, and Portugal's 1976 Constitution all combine to give General Eanes the initiative in the complicated political game that must follow.
Constitutionally, the alliance government had to resign, and the Constitution specifies that it is President Eanes who picks a new premier.The Alliance leaders were more desperate than ever to hang on to the victory they obtained in last October's general electionsand now will have to accept his choice gracefully -- however much they might dislike it.
Before his death, Sa Carneiro had told the Portuguese that if Eanes won, they could expect the Communists to return to power, foreign investors to flee, labor unrest to spill into the streets, and the economy to collapse.
The political heirs of Mr. Sa Carneiro are terrified that his campaign tactics could turn this into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The pro-Soviet Communist Party, which withdrew its own candidate in General Eanes's favor, is once again on the winning side after having spent the last four years in retreat.
The Alliance under Mr. Sa Carneiro was determined to force a confrontation with the Communists. General Eanes's supporters felt such a tactic could have dangerous consequences in a country where the revolution only happened six years ago. Now that the man they backed has been elected, so General Eanes's supporters argue, there will be pressure on the pro-Moscow party to toe the line. What frightens the Alliance is what price the party might force General Eanes to pay over the next five years for the 1 million Communist votes that brought him back to power.