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'No progress' as Portuguese parties seek coalition deal

Update: October, 14/2015 - 11:58

LISBON — Talks on forming a new Portuguese coalition government have made no progress more than a week after the general election, outgoing conservative prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho admitted ON Tuesday after a meeting with opposition Socialist leader Antonio Costa.

"We have made no progress" a visibly frustrated Coelho told reporters, as his Portugal Ahead coalition seeks partners to form a majority government.

"I expect the Socialist Party to come up with a counter-proposal," he added, without announcing any later meeting.

A first meeting last week also proved unfruitful.

Costa for his part called the right-leaning coalition's proposals "insufficient", complaining that they "don't put across the political will to break with austerity".

The Socialists came second in the October 4 polls, trailing Coelho's coalition which took 38.9 per cent of votes despite overseeing four years of painful austerity in the bailed-out country, although it lost its absolute parliamentary majority.

After scoffing at the idea of forming a grand coalition with the centre-right, Socialist leader Antonio Costa on Monday said he had identified "points of convergence".

In a document addressed to the Socialists in a bid to forge a deal, Coelho's coalition said it was prepared to take on board several measures of the Socialist programme in order to "guarantee indispensable government stability".

'Passive' Costa

Coelho, frustrated by what he called his "passive" negotiating partner, stressed that it was "fundamental that the country knows whether or not the Socialist Party has the political will to reach an agreement" on entering a broad coalition.

Portugal emerged in May 2014 from a three-year, 78-billion-euro (US$88 billion) international bailout, and the prospect of a fragile government has rattled investors.

The financial markets have already been spooked by the political uncertainty, shedding 3 per cent on Monday and a further 1.4 per cent on Tuesday.

In a bid to reassure investors, Costa said earlier on Tuesday that a left-wing government would respect trade commitments and would avoid any new crises in the eurozone.

"Europe can rest easy, the Socialist Party is not Syriza," Costa said, in reference to Greece's radical-left ruling party which earlier this year saw the country edge very near a chaotic fallout from the eurozone.

But the Socialist leader made it clear that the negotiations with Coelho's coalition were not over and said his party would reply in writing to its proposals while continuing its dialogue with the left-wing parties. — AFP

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