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Portuguese PM announces resignation

Published on 23/03/2011

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates announced his resignation Wednesday on the eve of a key EU summit on the eurozone debt crisis after parliament rejected his minority government's latest round of austerity measures.

“Today every opposition party rejected the measures proposed by the government to prevent that Portugal resort to external aid,” Socrates said in a televised address.

“The opposition removed from the government the conditions to govern. As a result I have presented my resignation to the president,” he said after meeting with President Anibal Cavaco Silva for about 20 minutes.

The ruling Socialist Party can count on the support of only 97 members in the 230-seat parliament.

The main opposition centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) had allowed past austerity plans to pass by abstaining from voting.

But on Wednesday it joined smaller parties on the left and right in voting for resolutions denouncing the latest cost-cutting plan, which include further takes hikes and cuts to social spending.

The PSD argues that the measures hurt the weakest members of society hardest but the government has warned that failure to reach agreement on more austerity would push Portugal closer to needing a bailout.

“This crisis will have very serious consequences in terms of the confidence Portugal needs to enjoy with institutions and financial markets,” Socrates said.

“So from now on it is those who provoked it who will be responsible for its consequences,” he added.