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Friday Briefing: It's my party (and I'll cry if I want to)

Good morning and welcome to PORTUGAL DECODED. Today, we're back to crisis mode after police arrested the Mayor of Funchal and indicted Madeira's Regional President on corruption charges.


POLITICS

Latest opinion polls show the Socialists extending their electoral lead with 26% of the voting preferences, against the centre-right’s AD 21% and the far-right’s CHEGA 17%. About 15% of voters are still undecided (More).


The Left Bloc unveiled its policy platform for the March 10 elections with increases in the minimum wage, a four-day week and caps on rents. Leader Mariana Mortágua said the plan aims to “guarantee a good life for everyone living in Portugal” (More).


SOCIETY

In the last 5 years, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Portugal to pay €823,000 for inhuman treatment in its prisons. Mouldy and overcrowded cells, infested with rats, cockroaches, and lack of privacy are the main complaints (More).


15,000 police officers took part in a ominous demonstration in Lisbon demanding better wages. They marched mostly in silence, occasionally clapping, whistling, and singing the National Anthem (More).


ECONOMICS

Since 2000, Portugal grew “a third” of its European peers, according to a new analysis. While Portugal’s GDP grew above the European average, it has been overtaken by that of similar countries, with Greece’s exception (More).


House sales dropped by 17% in 2023, but prices rose by 11.8% (still, a slow down from the 18% rise in 2022). Meanwhile, the European Commission has said that house prices are “strongly overvalued in Portugal” (More).


CULTURE

Porto electronic duo Best Youth premiered their new album Everywhen in Lisbon this week. The band will also present the acclaimed album in Porto, Torres Vedras, Braga, Coimbra and Primavera Sound (More).


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators interrupted a concert by Israeli-Russian Jerusalem Quartet at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. The musicians kept playing as an angry audience told the demonstrators to leave the stage (More).


IN FOCUS

WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED IN MADEIRA?

Forget channelling your inner Churchill at Reid’s Palace. The Madeira autonomous region is now the epicentre of a major political scandal involving corruption suspicions. Sounds familiar?


What happened?

On Wednesday, police searched several public offices, companies and the house of Miguel Albuquerque, the President of Madeira’s Regional Government. They ended up arresting three people, including the Mayor of Funchal (tipped to take Miguel Albuquerque’s place as PSD regional leader when his mandate comes to an end). While Albuquerque was cited as an official suspect, he wasn’t arrested because he enjoys immunity as President of the Regional Government and member of Portugal’s Council of State.


What is the operation about?

There are several investigations underway. One concerns suspicions of active and passive corruption, malfeasance, undue receipt of an advantage, abuse of power and influence peddling. Another investigation involves alleged attempts to block the publication of news damaging to the regional Government. But the list of suspicions is much broader, including alleged benefits obtained by office holders.


Yada yada yada… so what?

For starters, this was the largest operation by the Judiciary Police (PJ) ever, with 270 inspectors flying the night before on military planes to Funchal. But, crucially, it bears a striking resemblance to the case that brought down António Costa’s government in November. Whereas Costa immediately resigned after that case erupted (and he was not even indicted), Albuquerque has already said that he won’t stand down (even though he asked for Costa’s resignation a few months ago).


Will he outlast a lettuce?

Probably not. Less than three months away from the March 10 elections, PSD leader, Luís Montenegro, has so far stood by his party’s strongman, but he might have to reconsider. Already green party PAN has repealed its support for Albuquerque’s Government, bringing it to the brink of collapse. Both CHEGA and the Socialists have now called a no-confidence vote. And if it passes (and, with PAN’s support, it will) then Albuquerque will be ousted. Another snap election looms for Portugal.


TIPS OF THE WEEK

In collaboration with Unique Portugal

Lisbon

The Women of Maria Lamas at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

An exhibition showing for the first time the photographic work of Maria Lamas (1893–1983), journalist and writer, educator and researcher, translator and photographer, fighter for human and civil rights in times of dictatorship. From January 26 till May 26, from 10 am - 6 pm, Free entry - subject to room capacity. Watch a small documentary about Maria Lama for free on RTP’s website.


Porto

Lap Cinema at Coliseu do Porto

© “5 m 80”

Made up of colorfoul projections, in a space that allows children to react and move safely, Lap Cinema aims to stimulate the senses and discover the magic of cinema. Each viewing is 21 minutes with sessions on Saturday 27, from 10h30 till 17h30; and Sunday 28, from 10h30 till 12h00. Age: <6 Months and >3 Years. Tickets are 5€ and are valid for one child and up to 2 accompanying adults.


Elsewhere

Poor Things by Yorgos Lanthimos at cinemas across the country

© 2023 Searchlight Pictures

Adapted from the 1992 Alasdair Gray novel of the same title, Poor Things is a surreal take on the classic Frankenstein story. Fado-singer Carminho has a brief appearance in the film in a scene with actress Emma Stone set in an imaginary Lisbon. The movie won the Golden Lion 2023 in Venice, two Golden Globes, and is now nominated for 11 Oscars, premiered this Thursday in theatres across the country. Tickets here.


Monção Cod Week 2024

“Bacalhau à Monção” (Cod Monção-style) is a signature dish by renowned Chef Vítor Sobral, which can be tasted and enjoyed in 21 restaurants in Monção until 28 January. Monção Municipal Market will also host a traditional products fair, which takes place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and aims to promote agroforestry and local products, some of which are used to make “Bacalhau à Monção.”


Sintra Night Walk

On the first full moon of the year, on Saturday, January 27, Lynx Travel is organising a 5km walk in Sintra along “secret and ancestral trails that will lead travellers to the most mysterious stories of the mountains”. The walk starts at 7.30pm, lasts two and a half hours, and costs €10 (includes insurance and guide). To participate email lynxtravel11@gmail.com.

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