Portugal's leftists face bumpy future
Lisbon — Portugal's political left is awaking from a bad dream to face a potential nightmare. On top of its recent election drubbing at the hands of the ruling center-right coalition led by Francisco Sa Carneiro, the left now faces the possibility of losing a sympathetic president.
Their fear is that socialist-leaning President Antonion Ramalho Eanes will tumble in December presidential elections to the virulently anticommunist government candidate, Gen. Antonio Soares Carneiro.
Portugal would then be firmly set for at least four years of strong right-wing rule that, ultimately, could bring in its wake the old ghosts of the Salazarist dictatorship.
The fear has been partially endorsed already with the Oct. 5 election to parliament of Prof. Adriano Moreira, who was backed by the ruling coalition. Mr. Moreira is the first politician openly linked with the Salazar regime to win a seat in the chamber of deputies since the revolution of 1974. he is likely to play a prominent role in his country's political life again in the near future.
Mr. Moreira headed the key ministry in charge of Portugal's African colonies in the 1960s and today admits to holding a firm respect for the man who held Portugal under a firm grip for nearly half a century, Antonio Salazar. "Salazar was not a fascist -- he was conservative," Mr. Moreira told me.
Moreira in fact bears a striking resemblance to his old mentor. He has a priestly air about him, both austere and paternalistic. Like Salazar, Moreira comes from a poor background. The professor likes to wear dull, gray suits and conducts interviews with the soft-spoken tones of a confessional.
Today Mr. Moreira professes to have been out of politics for at least the past 15 years: He narrowly missed succeeding Salazar, and was jealousy excluded from ministerial posts by his main rival, Marcello Caetano.
But Moreira has never actually been far from the political stage, using his political science post at the University of Lisbon to formulate widely publicized commentaries on the Salazarist regime and the revolution that overturned it in 1974.
In that year he published a scathing attack on the country's left-wing military rulers in a best-selling book, the "Little Prince." Moreira claimed that Portugal's revolutionary captains were nothing but a group of Soviet puppets and aspiring tyrants. He was then forced to leave the country or face imprisonment.
His return to active politics after a four- year exile in Brazil has a messianic touch about it, even though he dismisses as "mere speculations" the prospect aired by his supporters of his future premiership.
During the election campaign, Mr. Moreira's statements and interviews were given wider coverage in the right-wing press than Mr. sa Carneiro himself. Following the election, it was Moreira not Sa Carneiro who was interviewed first by the state TV.
Moreira describes himself as an "independent" who agreed to become a candidate for the Democratic Alliance earlier this year only after "insistent and innumerable" requests.
"I accepted in the end because I believe Portugal is facing one of the most important periods of its history," Moreira told the Monitor.
Mr. Moreira argues that Portugal's present Constitution ties his country to a "collectivist" political and economic system dominated by left-wing military officers. Its original intention, he contends, was to ensure that the country's socialist character was not changed. Portugal's newly elected parliament is theoretically empowered to change it.
"I regard that as my main assignment," Mr. Moreira says of his immediate political ambitions. He wants to see two major changes in the Constitution. first, he wants to eliminate the powers and functions of the military council of the revolution, which, according to the text of the present charter, has the role of supervising Portugal's transition toward socialism. Second, he wants to eradicate from the Constitution any reference to Marxism, particularly the present stipulations that the ultimate goal of Portuguese democracy is to transfer power to the working class, and that nationalizatons are an "irreversible conquest" of the revolution.
Mr. Moreira believes that the with the exception of the Communist Party (which has 41 seats in the 250-seat parliament) there is a broad consensus for the disbandment of the council of the revolution. But he expects to encounter stiffer opposition in his efforts to rid the new Constitution of any socialist elements.
We can try and get round that by holdin a referendum," says Moreira.
However the existing Constitution stipulates that it can only be revised by a two- thirds parliamentary majority. Despite their convincing election win, the center- right alliance could not sweep aside the present Constitution without some compromise involving the major opposition party, the Socialists.
Mr. Moreira admits it could be difficult to achieve such a consensus, particularly if President Eanes is relected.
"We could be fighting for the next four years," says Moreira. He is, however , far from pessimistic. The ruling Coalition's Oct. 5 election victory surpassed his expectations. He expected the alliance to be returned with a smaller majority.
Moreira himself has emerged victorious from one of the more controversial election campaigns in his native Tras-os-Montes in northeast Portugal, one of the most backward regions in Western Europe. It was only to be expected that Moreira should choose that area, one with the highest immigration rate in Europe , for his political comeback.
Years of neglect by the central government has left residents deeply distrustful of the workings of parliamentary democracy.
"The people feel a great disillusionment. It's the kind of feeling that makes it easier for a coup d'etat," admits moreira.
A more permanent population is the nearly 1 million former settlers or "retornados" who fled to Portuguese Africa in 1976 who today feel only profound hate for the ramshackle decolonization organized by the socialist communists, and left-wing military.
the "retornados" have been absorbed into a society of traditional landholding and strong church influence. During his rabblerousing election campaign, Moreira showed a deep understanding for local values. He exploited them to the full. speaking in the small town of Frechas, which in 1975 was barricaded by communist militants, Moreira passionately defended Portugal's colonial past before an estatic crowd of retornados and peasants.
"We must defend the interests not of the individual but of Portugal. There is only one flag, that of Portuguese nationhood."
Moreira then pointed to the Portuguese colors that were draped around the platform and led the rally in an emotional rendering of the national anthem and its poignant words, "To arms, to arms over the land and over the sea."
Mr. Moreira is a staunch Catholic who in his speeches interprets the sermons of the leading bishops as firm support for the right. "Did you listen to the Bishop of Braga's sermon on the eve of the election? He told the faithful that if they did not stop Marxism they could blame no one but themselves," Moreira said recently.
Mr. Moreira is a regular churchgoer, faithfully married, and father of four children. He admits that the unorthodox private life of Prime Minister Sa Carneiro (he is separated from his wife and five children and lives openly with a Danish divorcee) "confuses" the women of tras-os-Montes.
The prime minister's private life was used as a major electoral issue by the Socialist Party. The Socialists' crushing defeat appeared to confirm Moreira' own prophecies. He predicted mudslinging would be counterproductive among a people whose very conservatism carries with it a rejection of slander.