Attack the PSD, glue Rio to Ventura, and defend Costa’s legacy. What did the ‘successors’ say

They arrived at the congress trying to deflate the label they had been stuck on: talking about post-Costa before Costa announced that he was going to leave “is not a priority”. Even because “the four names they talk about are four names that have been with António Costa since 2014,” recalled Ana Catarina Mendes. Mariana Vieira da Silva would still try to evade the television cameras on her way to the entrance to Portimão Arena, but, failing, she would try to evade the theme: “The future is completely clear: it’s António Costa and there’s nothing more to add”. “The only leadership I’m committed to is in the Lisbon City Council,” Fernando Medina would complete in the morning.

Everyone was in line: the order was to deflate the taboo that Costa had raised by throwing a decision for 2023. And everyone was in line when they took the stage to speak, defending the legacy of the secretary general and prime minister – who said he was proud of to have united the party and whose list for the national commission is going to be voted this Sunday without any competition – and they targeted Rui Rio’s PSD. All but one. The fact is that, of the group of four, only Pedro Nuno Santos refrained from speaking and, as he had already warned, fell silent. Silence gives consent. At least for now. Instead of Pedro Nuno, it was Marta Temido who gained an unexpected prominence – with the day ending even with António Costa admitting, over the microphones of Rádio Observador, that the minister of Health, recently turned militant, was also a “possible candidate for successor”.

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The first to take the stage was Mariana Vieira da Silva, to present António Costa’s political motion, and it was she who dictated the motto: defend the work done by the Government; defend António Costa and elevate António Costa to the role of successor to António Costa; defending the dialogue with the parliamentary left and, above all, attacking Rui Rio’s right, sticking it to the recipe of austerity, on the one hand, and Ventura’s “xenophobic” and “populist” right, on the other. According to Mariana Vieira da Silva, the PS must continue the “constructive dialogue with all progressive forces” (without mentioning the names) and the PS is the party that is in “better conditions to fight populism and xenophobia with which some want to collaborate” (read, PSD). But: “only the PS has António Costa”. The supposed trump wings.

The starting shot for the attack on the PSD was fired. Fernando Medina would come next. In an intervention focused on municipal combat, the also proto-candidate for leadership (who has already been out of the picture, at least until 2025, if he is reelected mayor), highlighted the differences between the PS and the PSD and continued the strategy of gluing the PSD to Enough. Warning of the risk of legitimizing the far right by the PSD, Medina stated that, since the elections in the Azores, the PSD “began to play a covert game about accepting the far right in the arc of governance”, “approaching in language, style, aggressiveness”. “Just look at how the PSD speaks: not for the country, against the socialists,” he said.

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Left Block does not come out unscathed

Farther than Medina only Vasco Cordeiro, who lived the governance agreement between the PSD and Chega, in the Azores, and who took to the stage of the congress to alert to the fact that history could repeat itself on the continent sooner rather than later: “It’s closer than it looks”, he said, suggesting that the PS should stay alert. Rio and the collage to Ventura was the theme chosen by many participants, such as the Minister of Labor Ana Mendes Godinho or even the hostess Isilda Gomes, mayor of Portimão, and the third proto-candidate to the succession of Costa – Ana Catarina Mendes – , who warned the socialists not to make a mistake on the way because, on the right, “the way is that of austerity”.

The socialist parliamentary leader, however, more than gritting her teeth to Rui Rio, wanted to leave a sting to her former (or current) “gimmick” partner. Without mentioning the name of the Left Block, and after having praised the path taken by the PS in what is being the “most demanding legislation” ever, Ana Catarina Mendes recalled that “there were those who were afraid to share with us the risk of managing this crisis”. And it did not stop there, warning the socialists not to go into chants: “Those who promise easy solutions are not responsible”. Only the PS has the key to the crisis. Only the PS has António Costa, said the three. The fourth element was missing, who, in order not to have to say it, was silent.