LISBON, Portugal – Portugal, already reeling from an alarming economic decline, plunged deeper into crisis Saturday when the conservative government quit a day after the president dissolved parliament and called an early general election.
The chaos in government will translate into months of political paralysis that Portugal, one of the European Union’s poorest nations, can ill afford. The crisis will only further delay essential and long-deferred reforms devised to halt the nation’s economic slide.
Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes announced the government’s decision Saturday after an emergency Cabinet meeting. It was a rebuke to Socialist President Jorge Sampaio, who said Friday he was dissolving Parliament and convening early elections Feb. 20.
Sampaio already announced his intention to call elections after weeks of feuding within the Cabinet.
Sampaio said Friday he had been forced to act to resolve “a grave crisis of credibility and instability” in the government.
“It would be bad if after last night’s words from the president we kept the same posture and attitude,” Santana Lopes said.
He said he would meet Sampaio on Monday to formalize the government’s resignation.