Government: Who is who in the new cabinet


This is one of the smallest governments with the youngest members in the history of the country. Every minister is under the age of 60. Two are in their mid 30s. Four ministers are not members of any party, five come from PSD and three from CDS. This is the cabinet that will face the most difficult task ever faced by a Portuguese government.

Politics — 17 June 2011 by Vitor Matos
Government: Who is who in the new cabinet

From left to right: prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho; minister o Finances Vítor Gaspar; minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas; minister of Defense Aguar-Branco and the minister of Internal Administration Miguel Macedo. Photograph: Miguel A. Lopes/Lusa

 

Prime Minister: Pedro Passos Coelho

The leader of centre-right PSD won the election with 38% of the vote, against José Sócrates the leader of centre-left PS. He is 46-years-old, was leader of his party’s youth movement and spent 10 years removed from politics, working in the private sector. He is viewed as a liberal who wants to venture beyond the measures outlined in the troika’s plan during the next three years. (Read profile here)

 

Minister of State and Foreign Affairs: Paulo Portas

This is the second time that the leader of CDS (conservative party) takes part in a coalition government with PSD: he was minister of defence in Durão Barroso’s government (2002-2005). A former journalist, he has switched from a populist, anti-European path to a more moderate position, focussed on the issues of taxation, public safety and pensioner’s rights. (Read profile here)

 

Minister of State and Finances: Vítor Gaspar

This economist with no party membership will be the most important minister of the government. From the very start he will be under the spotlight of the international markets and the troika, which will be evaluating his performance in detail. Vítor Gaspar has worked in the European Commission’s Bureau of European Policy Advisers, directed the research unit of the Bank of Portugal and was general manager of the research department of the European Central Bank. Despite being a prominent technician he has no experience of politics or dealing with the media. He will certainly be the most pressured member of the cabinet, and will hold the greatest power over all other ministers after Passos Coelho himself.

 

Minister of Parlamentary Affairs: Miguel Relvas

This is Pedro Passos Coelho’s right-hand man. They have been friends since their time in PDS’s youth movement in the 1980s, and he is the person in whom the prime minister trusts the most. The 49-year-old was a career politician until 2005, when the PSD-CDS government fell, and then started working as a business consultant. He was a member of Durão Barroso’s close circle, and has been responsible for the strategy which led Passos Coelho to the leadership of PSD and from there to prime minister. He is the marketing and political strategist of the group.

 

Minister for Justice: Paula Teixeira da Cruz

The 51-year-old lawyer and politician has followed a path in PSD since she worked in Cavaco Silva’s government during the 1990s. She belonged to several of the party’s political leaderships, of which she is currently the vice-president. She always accused the former socialist government of attacking the professionals of the justice sector.

 

Minister of Internal Administration: Miguel Macedo

Another of Pedro Passos Coelho’s companions who has been working with him since their days in PSD’s youth movement. The 52-year-old lawyer was the leader of PSD’s parliamentary group, and was secretary of state for justice in Durão Barroso’s government (2002-2005). This is the second time that PSD has not given this ministry that oversees the police forces to CDS, which has a very strong discourse regarding the issues of safety and security.

 

Minister of National Defence: José Pedro Aguiar-Branco

This 53-year-old lawyer from Oporto with aristocratic manners, was one Passos Coelho’s opponents in the run for PSD’s leadership in 2010, but had very few votes. After Durão Barroso left for Brussels he was minister for justice between June 2004 and March 2005. In recent years he was connected to the area of defence, as member of the parliamentary committee which oversaw that area.

 

Minister of Economy and Employment: Álvaro Santos Pereira

One of the central ministries of this government will be overseen by an independent young, 39-year-old economist, with a PhD from the Simon Fraser University of Vancouver, Canada (where he has been living), and who has spent the greater part of his life abroad. Santos Pereira is part of the team of one of the blogs associated with PDV, the “Portuguese Economy”. He recently published the book “Portugal na hora da Verdade” (Portugal at the Moment of Truth), and had already written “O Medo do Insucesso Nacional” (The Fear of National Failure). Despite being a technician from the area of figures and numbers, he is also the author of novels and wrote “O Diário de um Deus Criacionista” (Journal of a Creationist God).

 

Minister of Agriculture, Fishing, Environment and Spatial Planning: Assunção Cristas

The young MP and university teacher in the area of law has been one of Paulo Portas’s major investments, who discovered her a few years ago when she was campaigning against the liberalisation of abortion. The leader of CDS has chosen this 36-year-old catholic and mother of three to head one of the most emblematic ministries for the conservatives. For years, agriculture has been one of the principal issues for CDS.

 

Minister of Health: Paulo Macedo

An independent. His work as general manager of the taxation office (2004-2007) gave him the credibility and authority he will need now to reform one of the most complicated ministries, and the one with the most difficult spending to curtail. As head of the taxation office he was responsible for the most successful debate on tax evasion in Portugal, and has worked with governments from both PS and PSD. At the age of 48 he was vice-president of BCP, the largest private bank in Portugal.

 

Minister of Solidarity and Social Security: Pedro Mota Soares

Like the prime minister, he is a former youth leader of a party, but in his case from CDS. The youngest of the ministers, at the age of 36, he was one of the MPs to be closest to Paulo Portas and was the leader of the conservatives’ parliamentary group. His ministry includes Social Security, a difficult office, which will oblige him to deal with the opposition to the measures of the troika plan. He is very active and organised.

 

Minister of Education, Higher Education and Science: Nuno Crato

A 59-year-old mathematician, independent of any political parties, who has been connected with the issue of dissemination of scientific knowledge and who in recent years has been growingly critical of the Portuguese education system. He is a teacher of mathematics and statistics at ISEG (a public higher education institute of management). He will be accumulating both Education and Higher Education, which had not taken place since 1995.

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Vitor Matos

(4) Readers Comments

  1. If I read this correctly, 4 of the cabinet are independents, and are not members of the assembly. Is this a usual set-up? How will those ministers be held to account by the assembly.

    I am just trying to understand how the Portuguese assembly/government works. In the UK, it is rare to have cabinet members who are not in the Commons, although occasionally a minister will be in the Lords. In any case, ministers have to be able to face questions from MPs (in either the Commons or Lords) – how does this work in Portugal, if the ministers are not members of the Assembly?

    Thanks,

    Steve Jones

    • @Steve Jones In Portugal, the members of government don’t have to be members of parliament like in Britain, although they are held responsible by the chamber, like all the government. In the nineties, to give more credibility to the goverrnment, socialist prime minister António Guterres started this thing of calling independents to government with a less politic than academic profile. Theoretically, people trust more in the independents to lead areas like finance or economy. In Portugal, you can recruit the members of government in all society. They are proposed by the prime minister to the president and the president nominates them. The parliament does not have to approve the cabinet – that’s between the president and the prime minister -, but it has to approve the government programme. Thanks for your question.
      Vítor Matos

  2. @Steve Jones

    You read it correctly: four ministers (in four major areas) are independents. In Portugal ministers do not need to come from the Assembly. After being appointed by the PM they can (and must) face questions by MPs, in the respective parliamentary commissions (or general sessions). In order for it to work well independent ministers need absolute backing from the PM (to shelter them even from their government coleagues). Still an independent in a key area (such as Treasury) might have problems with the MPs from the party that supports the government (because he lacks connections and informal leadership over them) – this happened with the last Finance minister, Teixeira dos Santos, in 2009.

    B.

  3. We can start some austerity building measures by eliminating these four positions in government.

    Minister of Parlamentary Affairs – Useless Position (administrative, can be covered a pencil pusher)
    Minister of Internal Administration – Useless Position (administrative, can be covered a pencil pusher)
    Minister of Economy and Employment – Redundant – already covered by Minster of Finance
    Minister of Solidarity and Social Security – Useless Position (administrative, can be covered a pencil pusher)

    And My Favorite:

    The Presidency – Useless Position (Can be covered by a mascot, like the Portuguese Rooster)

    Come on Portugal, you’ve rammed austerity down the throat of the citizenry, now lets see you ram it down your own.

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