Anti-corruption activist Paulo de Morais runs for president in 2016
Paulo de Morais, a college professor and former Vice-President of Oporto’s town council with a Social Democrat majority, announced that he is a candidate for the next presidential elections in January 2016. He is Vice-President of TIAC (Civic Association on Transparency and Integrity), a civic association focused on fighting and raising awareness for corruption, and a member of Transparency International. Morais, an independent ex-Social Democrat who left the party in 2013, announced his candidacy at Piolho Café in Oporto, a famous Coffee Shop with a republican tradition.
Morais made a lot of uncomfortable and unpleasant comments about politicians in power and big law firms operating in Portugal. Those were “the major symbol of today’s big business platform into which our national politics have transformed”. Parts of the public as well as the media see Morais as someone who “shoots on all fronts” – at political groups and big law societies alike. He argued that the presidential elections have become “contests that offer a choice between the biggest liars”. Morais criticised Portuguese politicians, especially the current President of the Republic Anibal Cavaco Silva (Social Democratic Party) for placing the order to build Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Bridge with the construction company Lusoponte
. The order never underwent a civil service examination. Thirty-eight percent of Lusoponte’s
shares belong to Mota-Engil
, a big player in the civil construction sector run by Jorge Coelho, a high-ranking member of the Socialist Party (PS).
Stating that “it was corruption that brought us crisis and poverty”, Paulo de Morais made clear that corruption would be his main issue, if he is elected President. He is convinced that the next president will have to develop and effectuate a major strategy including the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and involving society, to engage corruption. In his speech, Morais called corruption in Portugal a “chronic problem”. To emphasis his point, he reminded the audience of the World Fair “Expo ‘98” in Lisbon and the European Football Championship in 2004 that made some companies rich at the expense of the public purse as well as the latest scandals in the financial industry. Thus, Morais clearly spoke out what every citizen knows about but all politicians – either candidates or politicians in power – keep silent on and try to sweep under the mat.
Morais also spoke about the economic crisis, stating that the current feeling in Portugal was “depressive”. He also thinks that the democratic regime is dying after more than 40 years. He justifiably accused dozens of deputies in parliament of using their mandate to accumulate wealth by collaborating with economic players, who benefit from favours granted by the state. He called the parliament a “trade show” and said that big law firms were “shadow ministries”. He emphasised the fact that “most laws cannot be elaborated inside big law societies, because of the ’installed interests’”.
Morais took the opportunity to list election promises of former governments – from Socialist to Social-Democratic governments – that were not held during the respective mandates. He accused the governing coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats (CDS – People’s Party) of lying. As eager supporters of lowering taxes before reaching power – when José Sócrates (Socialist Party) was Prime Minister – the People’s Party became a huge supporter of the Social-Democrats’ tax increases once they were part of the government. The same thing had happened with Sócrates before he was elected. Morais’ following statement triggered the most media response: “If I’m elected president and the prime minister does the opposite of what he announced previously in the election campaign, he can only expect one thing: he can be absolutely sure that I will remove him from power”.
For the moment, Morais needs 7,500 signatures from citizens, since according to the Portuguese constitutional law this requirement is needed, if the presidential contender in question is not a member of a political party.
A scandal rocks the judicial system – public money is misappropriated
For the first time ever, the Portuguese Constitutional Court (CC), the highest Court of the Portuguese judicial system, was the subject of a financial auditing conducted by the National Audit Office. The auditing revealed a financial runaway in the financial accounts of the CC and showed disorganisation in the court’s bills of 2013. The auditing was published on the 21st of April at the Audit Office’s website and considered “the liability of the documents stating rendering of accounts as bad” because of mistakes and irregularities. The internal control system of the court was rated as “deficient”. No manual of procedures for internal control exists. Neither does respect for the budgetary rules regarding 1.4 million euros.
The account examining of the Constitutional Court also revealed that all 13 Counsellor Judges are entitled to a company car and free fuel that they use only for personal matters since the year 2000. Additionally, the judges are also entitled to use Portugal’s roads without paying road tolls. The spokesman of Counsellor Judges defended the 13 judges stating that they exercised their right and had not violated the law.
The judges were also granted a meal allowance of 12,000 euros during November 2012 and December 2013. The National Audit Office deems this as not “according to the law” and stated that the meal allowance resulted in an effective damage for the public purse.