Portugal: President rules out second term if 2018 sees more forest fires tragedy

Lisbon – The head of state took the position in an interview with Rádio Renascença and Público newspaper, published on Tuesday, in which he expressed “a well-founded expectation” that Portugal will not this year see fires like those of 2017, which claimed 115 lives altogther.

“It is not only a hope, it’s an expectation,” he said.

Reminded of the statement he made to the country in the wake of October’s devastating fires, in which he promised to use all his powers to addresse the idea of the state’s frailties, and asked whether the government could stay on if there were another tragedy of the same order, he replied: “It is a scenario that does not present itself in my spirit. It won’t happen.”

De Sousa preferred to highlight another part of his statement of last October, in which he said that “changing this in this domain is one of the decisive tests” he would make in assessing his own time in office. He told his interviewers that this was “the most important part” of the statement he made on 17 October at Oliveira do Hospital, in Coimbra district.

“When I assess, in mid-2020, my presidential term – that is, looking back – and then … whether I have a duty of conscience”, he explained. Asked whether this meant that this would be one of the criteria in deciding whether to stand for a second term, he said that it was “decisive”.

Portugal’s constitution gives the head of state the power to dismiss the government at will, after consulting political parties represented in parliament and his top advisors in the Council of State.

In the interview by the journalists David Dinis and Eunice Lourenço, the president also expressed confidence that the criminal investigation into the robbery of military materiel last year at a base in Tancos would reach conclusions before the end of his current term.

At the same time, he cited the future framework for European Union regional aid – which is under threat because of the UK, a net contributor, leaving the EU – as his main concern at the moment “not just because of Portugal’s position, but the significance for Europe”.