The day the Public Ministry won the elections

Image: Efe Ersoy


Three prosecutors opened a criminal case, forced the prime minister to resign, brought down the government and ended up with an absolute majority in Parliament

The story of Sunday's election in Portugal can be told quickly. Three prosecutors opened a criminal case, forced the prime minister to resign, brought down the government and ended up with an absolute majority in Parliament. Three months later the right wins the elections and prepares to form a government. One witty politician described what happened as a variant of Chekhov's principle — "when a pistol is displayed in the first act it becomes more likely that it will fire before the play is over." The gun went off that night and the Public Ministry won the elections.

But the weapon is not new. The weapon was initially shown in 2014 with the Marquis process, with arrest at the airport and imprisonment without charge. At that time they wanted to prevent a candidacy for the presidency and the victory of the Socialist Party in the following year's legislative elections. They achieved both, swindling the judge's choice and turning the investigation into a game of marked cards (no, it's not a point of view, it's a final judicial decision).

Now, ten years later, the gun fires again to change the government, put the right back in power and give the far right the keys to governance. Ten years ago, the far-right leader was a commentator on the Marquês process on television. Correio da Manhã. Now he has 18% of the votes. The Public Ministry won the elections.

O Socialist Party, however, behaved like the perfect victim. She walked, full of composure and responsibility, to the scaffold. No contestation or protest. It's all normal and it's all acceptable, even though yesterday the party had an absolute majority and now finds itself, thanks to a lawsuit, forced to contest elections at the worst possible moment, exactly in the middle of the mandate.

As for the President of the Republic, who had been waiting for a long time for an opportunity to do something visible, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to interrupt the legislature and end his term with his political family in power. The intriguing excitement was so strong that he didn't even wait for election day to say what he thought should happen. And yet, election night was one of deep disappointment. The victory was attributed to the extreme right and the president, horror of horrors, was considered one of the losers of the night. In the end, it was the Public Ministry that won the elections.

Journalism was the same as itself. Partial to the end. On election day they still asked people if they didn't think it was time for change. But what is absolutely extraordinary is your ability to transform the most unusual situation into normal. The judicial operation quickly disappeared from television and politics moved on to elections. A cycle has closed, the journalists said, regardless of whether this cycle ended legitimately or illegitimately. In the end it was the Public Ministry who won the elections. And without scandal, as only journalism has the power to create scandal.

And yet, all things considered, the operation did not go entirely well. Despite the efforts of politics and journalism to normalize what happened, not everything was perfect. The usual applause for searches and arrests was not unanimous as it used to be and the infamous proclamation of confidence in justice is also no longer what it used to be. This time there were no judges writing on their social networks that “There are perfect days. Hihihihi.”

On the contrary, in journalism and politics a few recalcitrant people appeared. Even a fearless prosecutor decided to write what she thinks, confronting the union power that has long dominated the institution and demanding a return to constitutional order. She knows what she talks about and knows what she says. The reason is simple: the prestige of the institution does not lie in corporate defense, but in the strict defense of democratic legality and respect for constitutional guarantees. Someone said that the worst aspect of Stalinism is the persecution of dissent — open an investigation into disobedience. There are times when braces become absolutely ridiculous.

Yes, the campaign went the way they wanted. No debating searches for futile reasons or abusive detentions. No discussing the limits of state power or constitutional guarantees. No discussing freedom. There was no time in this campaign to discuss freedom. At the end of Sunday night there was still some frenzy with uncertainty — who exactly won? Perhaps this is how it can be understood better: this was the day that the Public Ministry won the elections. But not everything went well for them, did it?

*José Sócrates was Prime Minister of Portugal from March 12, 2005 to June 21, 2011.

Originally published on the portal ICL News.

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