Portugal centre-right leader Luis Montenegro invited to form new government

The government is set to be sworn in on April 2, but could face strong resistance from the far-right Chega party.

Luis Montenegro, leader of the centre-right Democratic Alliance, left, meets Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at the presidential palace in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 20, 2024 [Armando Franca/AP Photo]

Portugal’s president has named Luis Montenegro, head of the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD), as the country’s new prime minister and invited him to form a minority government after eight years of Socialist rule.

The long-awaited results of the March 10 elections were published late on Wednesday after votes from abroad were counted, and saw AD win 80 seats in the 230-member parliament, while the Socialist Party and the far-right Chega party clinched 78 and 50 seats, respectively.

At a meeting held early on Thursday, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa invited Montenegro to become prime minister.

“The AD won the election … [so] the president … decided to nominate Luis Montenegro as prime minister,” the president’s office said in a statement.

The final official results will be certified on Friday, after which parties have 48 hours to mount legal challenges.

New minority government

Montenegro, a 51-year-old lawyer and longtime parliamentarian, will succeed the Socialist Party’s Antonio Costa, who held office since 2015 and was forced to resign in November following corruption allegations.

Montenegro said he would present his cabinet of ministers to Rebelo de Sousa next Thursday, and that the government would be sworn in on April 2.

Within 10 days of that date, it must present its programme to parliament, which is automatically approved unless parliament holds a vote to reject it.

The AD alliance campaigned on promises to boost Portugal’s economy by cutting taxes after soaring inflation and living costs hit last year. The country saw economic growth slow from 6.8 percent in 2022 to 2.3 percent in 2023.

The party also promised to improve shaky public health services and issues in the education sector, where teachers and school workers have organised strike actions over pay.

Far-right movement

Chega leader Andre Ventura demanded this week that the winning alliance give his party a say in governing the country by granting it seats in the to-be-formed cabinet or through a parliamentary alliance.

Ventura warned of political instability if the AD continued to reject a coalition and threatened to oppose the party in key parliament votes on topics such as the 2025 budget.

Chega emerged as a political force after quadrupling its parliamentary representation.

Montenegro has repeatedly said his party is prepared to govern on its own and will not negotiate a broad formal agreement with Chega to work together.

An AD government will be dependent on piecemeal deals in parliament with Chega or the left wing to pass legislation, making it potentially unstable.

Some of Chega’s more controversial proposals include chemical castration for some sex offenders and the introduction of life sentences, although Ventura has said the party could drop those bills for a chance at power.

He also signalled support for some measures proposed by Montenegro such as higher wages and benefits for healthcare workers, police and teachers, and lower income taxes.

Source: News Agencies