President Anibal Cavaco Silva has called for a government that can maintain Portugal's austerity course. A national election on Sunday denied the right-wing coalition a parliamentary majority.
On Tuesday, Portugal's president urged politicians to set aside their bickering and find compromises after an election that threatens to bring a period of damaging instability, following years of austerity mandated by countries such as Germany.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva urged the political parties to show a spirit of compromise in the coalition negotiations that will now begin.
"It is fundamental that a stable and lasting government is formed," Cavaco Silva said in a televised address late Tuesday." He called on parties "to show openness to compromise, with a sense of responsibility, to ensure a solution for a sustainable government."
On Sunday, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's right-wing coalition won 104 seats in the 230-seat parliament, well short of a majority, meaning that he will need to seek support from other parties to pass laws. The main opposition Socialists won 85 seats. The anti-austerity Left Bloc now holds 19 seats, and the Communist-Green alliance has 17.
The outgoing government had pledged to reduce the budget deficit to 2.7 percent of gross domestic product this year. Though they had pledged to ease austerity measured, the Socialists had also promised to comply with the EU-imposed budget goals.
Though he has no executive power as Portugal's largely symbolic head of state, Cavaco Silva has played a central role in efforts to build a coalition. He spoke Tuesday after meeting with Passos Coelho.
The president said politicians must "improve Portugal's standard of living and strengthen its international credibility" after the country underwent steep tax increases and cuts in pay, pensions and public services as part of the international austerity plan.
Cavaco Silva has asked for a grand coalition before. Two years ago, he urged parties to reach unity after the Constitutional Court blocked efforts to cut some pensions and endangered the budget deficit goal, but the parties were unable to overcome their differences.
The incoming government must attempt to seek parliamentary approval for new austerity measures intended to help Portugal's economy recover from a 78 billion-euro ($87 billion) loan in 2011 and the resulting three-year recession.
mkg/jr (Reuters, AP)