New political party in Portugal tries to woo outgoing President into its camp
Come December, Portugal's President Antonio Ramalho Eanes will be out of the job he has held for 10 years. It has been a turbulent decade, and there are many who see General Eanes as the man who could impose a new order on Portugal's troubled political institutions. They would like to see him stay on in active politics. They have even coined a new term, ``Eanismo,'' to express their desire.
A group of business and professional men, farmers, and out-of-work politicians has labored for more than a year to set up a new political group. Their goal is to replace the current power-sharing between president and prime minister with a French-style executive presidency.
Last week they announced the formation of the Partido Renovador Democratico (Democratic Renewal Party), tacitly expressing the hope that Eanes would become party leader.
According to its program, the new party wants to strengthen the presidency, tame parliament, make deputies more answerable to their constituents, and reinforce decentralized government at local and regional levels.
Although there are few signs that Eanes is about to grasp the proferred rudder, the party's founders hope he will change his mind by the time he leaves office.
Most observers place the Democratic Renewal Party to the left of center, somewhere between the Socialists of Prime Minister Mario Soares and the Moscow-line Communists of Alvaro Cunhal.
Polls show the new party could expect to draw some 25 percent of the national vote, mainly from dissident Socialists and right-of-center Social Democrats (the two parties that now rule in a coalition).
Despite Eanes's refusal to endorse the new party or reveal his plans for when he leaves office (he is barred from a third consecutive term), there are hints that he supports some sort of ``national union'' to deal with Portugal's unending crisis.
For the moment, the Democratic Renewal Party faces the crucial task of finding itself a candidate for the presidential ballot.
Prime Minister Soares is almost certain to be the Socialist Party's candidate in the race. He is Portugal's most experienced politician, and in spite of the austerity program he has imposed on the country, there is growing sentiment in political circles here that he is likely to win that election.
``He is the only national figure capable of guaranteeing political stability and exercising political authority,'' Vasco Pulido Valente, a historian and former political adversary of Soares, says.