Friday, July 24, 2009

Portugal Takes its Ballots and Street Heat Seriously

In Portugal: 35 Years Since the Revolution:

by Mike Tolochko

Traveling to Portugal and of course Lisbon, or any place that you're not familiar with, you always buy a guide to help to focus your limited time. The "Green Guide" by Michelin gives a good description of Portugal and even mentions the dictatorship of Salazar. You learn that it ended in April, 1974. Foders guide marks that date, but little more.

The Lonely Planet guide is far more political, it is published in England. The town of Peniche was highlighted as a good place to visit. Stating that it was the location of one of Salazar's main prisons.

But, what is missing for more politically minded travelers is that Peniche, the Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo, of its time, and after having Socialist mayor's for many years, elected a Communist Party leader as its Mayor three years ago. They could have also said that this wasn't a fluke. Of the 308 municipalities in Portugal, 33 have Communist Party or over 10%.

Thirty-five years ago, April 25, 1974, the dictatorship, lead by Salazar, came an end. The military and peoples' movement brought democracy to the Portuguese people and ever since the Portuguese Communist Party [PCP] has been in the leadership of keeping the promise of democracy, economic and social rights; and peace a reality for workers' and their families.

Year 2009 Balloting/Elections

In the year 2009, the PCP has won important victories in the European Parliamentary elections; and, is looking forward to the elections for national government offices and municipalities in September and October of 2009. After decades of right wing and dictatorships, they take democracy seriously in Portugal.

While the wave of ultra right wing parties had some success in the large European countries; the Communist Parties of Greece and Portugal out paced them. They were not rubbed out completely, but they did not do very well.

At the same time, the Party leads mass demonstrations throughout the country to make it possible for the thoughts and ideas of workers and communities have a voice. As is explained, every form of expression is needed to pressure the government and the employers.


In the 2009 EU Parliamentary elections, the PCP polled 10.67% of the vote, which was higher than achieve in the previous similar election in 2005, or 9.1%. The most recent national elections vote, 2005, of the PCP was 7.8%; which was an increase from the 7.0% four years earlier. Municipal elections found the PCP candidates doing even better in 2005 than in the previous local elections where they were voted into 30 municipalities.

In the EU Parliament and the Portuguese Parliament the PCP representation stayed the same.

Street Heat

Keeping the streets hot with demonstration is a hallmark of the PCP. On May 13, 2009, over 250 trade unionists hit the streets to protest the new Labor Code by the National government. On April 25 the 35th Anniversary of the Revolution, over 50,000 marched. On May 1st, MAY DAY, Lisbon had a demonstration of over 250,000 with demonstrations in 55 other Portuguese cities.

And, then on May 25, a coalition of political parties demonstrated for peoples' rights; about 85,000 strong.

Elections in September

National elections will take place on September 27 this year; with municipal elections two weeks later. The Party hopes to improve upon its 7.8% of four years ago; and improve on its 33 cities with Communists in the municipal elections

The Annual Festival of the PCP will precede these national and local elections, September 3-5, 2009. Each year, the Party attracts over 550,000 people. This festival has the traditional foods and speeches and debates.

The main issues have been:

The directives coming from the European unions of increased privatization; cutbacks on pensions and health benefits; increasing the age to retire and other anti-working class and anti women issues; these demonstrations and elections will keep worker and their families alert to the dangers ahead.

They will also, as reported, voice solidarity with trade unions and workers from other EU countries to stop the assault.

More to come; stay tuned!!!

For a relatively small country with 11 million people and 1 million in Lisbon proper [2.3 great Lisbon] this population is ready to fight. [Sweden has 3 million people.]