Across Europe, progressives have despaired the rise of the far right, over austerity policies crippling the welfare state, and of growing anti-immigrant sentiment as the region has grappled with an array of crises in recent years. Everywhere, except here.
In Portugal, a left-wing government came to power four years ago as the country was still dealing with the effects of the European debt crisis and deep spending cuts negotiated with the so-called troika—the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. The minority administration in Lisbon formed by Socialist Party Prime Minister António Costa was considered so unlikely to succeed that it got its own hard-to-translate, and derogatory, moniker: geringonça, which in Portuguese means an odd contraption that is very likely to fall apart. Yet the “contraption” persisted and managed to raise the minimum wage, lower unemployment, nearly eliminate the budget deficit, and maintain good relations with Brussels. In sum, it oversaw economic growth while reversing austerity policies.