Portugal’s left wing success story

Two years on, we can say that this left-wing government has passed all the tests.


Following Portugal’s parliamentary elections on 4 October 2015, the Socialist Party (PS) was forced to take a decision: either to join the right-wing parties (PSD and CDS) in a grand coalition or to nd an alternative solution that would allow a left-wing majority in Portugal’s Parliament.


Given the country’s post-austerity context, which has placed so many Portuguese people under socio-economic strain, and given the political programme which the PS had committed to during the campaign for the legislative elections to definitively put an end to austerity, the first solution was simply out of the question.

But to find such a leftist solution was anything but easy. Never – in Portugal’s 40 years of democracy – had there been a left-wing governing coalition.

Over time, disagreements and miscommunication between left wing parties had become the rule, if not even a tradition. For the PS it was therefore a historical and communication challenge that had to be surpassed in order to build bridges between all the left wing parties and achieve a united left in Portugal.

Sceptics of left wing coalition proven wrong

So when the Left Bloc (BE), the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and the Ecological Party called ‘The Greens’ decided to support the PS and form a left-wing government, there were not many who believed in the viability of this solution. In fact, three major criticisms were made of the cross-party agreements: the first was that the left-wing coalition would not be stable and would col- lapse, to the detriment of the country’s political stability, as soon as it came up against its first problem. The second criticism was that the country’s economy would fail and, in particular, that private investors would flee the country due to the unprecedented nature of such a coalition. The third criticism was that this majority would not allow the government to respect its domestic commitments (its campaign pledges and thus the promises made to Portuguese citizens) and its external ones (to the European Union), given that the govern- ment programme “promised everything to everyone” and thus was not realistic.

Two years on, we can say that this left-wing government has passed all the tests. Today, no one doubts that this solution underpins a stable political system – a solution that guarantees a better, richer and more mature and pluralistic democracy for the country.

With regard to the PS’s domestic commitments, the government programme has been rigorously respected and coherently implemented.

Economic success for Portugal

On another positive note, a year after 2016, when Portugal’s economic performance was relatively hampered by the slowdown in international trade and by the problems concerning the delay in transfer of Portugal’s 2020 European structural funds, in 2017 the economy finally accelerated and there are now several estimates that growth will be between 2% and 3% in 2017, the highest rate of growth since the accession of Portugal to the euro in 1999.

To conclude, with regard to the PS’s domestic commitments, the government programme has been rigorously respected and coherently implemented – and even in some areas of public policy the left-wing parties agreed to go beyond the left-wing governing coalition agreement by securing some significant advances such as an increase in the country’s pension schemes. In terms of external commitments, 2016 was the year when Portugal achieved the lowest public de – cit (2% of GDP) in its history as a democracy, thereby allowing the country to move out of the European Excessive Deficit Procedure to which it had been subject since 2009.

We can say that, starting from a situation in which few believed in its success, this government and its left-wing coalition have won the battle of credibility and confidence, thereby benefiting Portugal’s democracy and economy.

In some cases, Portugal’s progressive success story is still viewed with scepticism by international partners and many still inquire how it is possible to work with political forces that have different ideas of and towards Europe.

But our vision goes beyond this scepticism: working with these parties – in permanent negotiation and dialogue to which all make a contribution and have a say – is a way for the electorate to be represented at the national level, which in turn supports the current government in its European integration efforts.

Find all related publications

A European Health Union

A blueprint for generations

Making trade work for prosperity, people and planet

FEPS Primers series - Arancha González and Yanis Bourgeois

SDGs for all: Strategic scenarios

Earth4All system dynamics modelling of SDG progress

European perceptions of public programmes for zero unemployment

Online survey and qualitative interviews: The results
Find all related news

FEPS is recruiting 1 project officer

Notice of vacancy

FEPS President at the SDG Summit and United Nations General Assembly in New York

FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues is in New York this week on the occasion of […]

Call for tender – Researcher on inflation

Basic Information Project    The profits-prices spiral: measures to avoid inflation  Partners   TASC (Ireland), Pietro Nenni Foundation (Italy)  […]

Call for tender – Research and analysis for the project “Progressive paths to rebuild Ukraine”

Basic Information Project Research “In search of a ‘lost generation’. Harnessing youth potential for post-war […]
Find all related in the media
In the media

‘SDG funding gap swells to $137trn’ New Policy Study from FEPS, together with Earth4All, to deliver a five-point plan for the SDGs.

by Edie 19/09/2023
The “SDGs for All” report emphasises that policymakers have the potential to significantly advance SDG implementation by the original 2030 deadline and beyond by enacting five “extraordinary turnarounds” that break away from current trends.

“Trade doesn’t work in isolation from good domestic policies” Interview to Arancha González

by Borderlex 19/09/2023
Interview to Arancha González, former Spanish foreign minister, who released together with FEPS the new book entitled 'The Trade Handbook: Making Trade Work for Prosperity, People and Planet'

AI to ‘determine course of global trade, jobs’ in near future

by The Financial Express 14/09/2023
The Financial Express's article focuses on the publication of FEPS Primer on Trade written by Arancha González Laya and Yanis Bourgeois

Un nuevo informe de prospectiva identifica las medidas políticas urgentes necesarias para volver a encarrilar los ODS

by Cope 14/09/2023
'New foresight report identifies urgent policy measures needed to get the SDGs back on track' Cope's article on the policy study 'SDGs for all: Strategic scenarios', published in collaboration with Earth4All