Text message causes tension in Portugal's coalition gov't

By Barry Hatton, Associated Press | Posted - May 6, 2015 at 5:41 a.m.



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LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A cell phone text message is straining relations between the two parties in Portugal's coalition government, which plan to stand together in a general election later this year.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, in a new biography published late Tuesday, spills some secrets about the tough times his government has endured since imposing austerity measures following the country's 78 billion-euro ($87.5 billion) bailout in 2011 amid Europe's debt crisis.

He claims Paulo Portas, head of the junior party in the center-right coalition, informed him by text message that he was quitting as foreign minister during a political crisis two years ago that almost brought down the government in what became known as the "cold summer" of 2013.

Portas' Popular Party responded to the embarrassing revelation in a statement, saying the resignation "was naturally formalized by letter." It added that the book's author had not consulted Portas about the text message claim, which it attributed to a "lapse" by the author.

Neither Passos Coelho, leader of the Social Democratic Party which is the senior coalition partner, nor Portas commented publicly on the spat Wednesday.

But officials in both government parties expressed discomfort over the issue, which erupted just 10 days after they agreed to fight a fall election together. They face a strong challenge from the main opposition Socialist Party which is seducing voters with a call for unpopular austerity measures to be eased.

Portas later withdrew his 2013 resignation, staying on after being promoted to deputy prime minister.

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Barry Hatton

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