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Parliament rejects Chega's criminal suit against President Marcelo

© Miguel Figueiredo Lopes | Presidência da República

The Parliament voted down Chega's attempt to file a criminal complaint against President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa over his statements on the payment of reparations to former Portuguese colonies.

In the vote, Chega's initiative was rejected by all the other political forces represented in Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee: PSD, PS, Liberal Initiative, Left Bloc, PCP, Livre and PAN.

Socialist MP Isabel Moreira accused Chega of consciously acting against the honour of the President of the Republic by accusing him of betraying his country, warning that aggravated defamation of the head of state could be involved.

That position was seconded by Communist MP António Filipe, who noted that insulting the President of the Republic is a criminal offence "provided for and punishable in the Penal Code".

On Tuesday, Chega's leader André Ventura announced that Chega intended to file a complaint against Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for the crime of "betrayal of the fatherland".

At issue were the head of state's statements at a dinner with foreign journalists about historical reparations for the period of Portuguese colonialism, suggesting as an example the cancellation of debts owed by the former colonies.

"Chega took the decision today to file a lawsuit against the President of the Republic, for betraying his country and for betraying our Constitution," said the party leader, indicating that Chega took this decision "thinking of those who felt deeply affected, wronged and assaulted by Marcelo's words".

Chega has enough MPs to floor the initiative, but it would only be approved if it had the support of the PS and PSD.

Article 130 of the Portuguese Constitution, on the criminal responsibility of the President of the Republic, stipulates that "for offences committed in the exercise of his functions, the President of the Republic shall be accountable to the Supreme Court of Justice" and that "the Assembly of the Republic shall initiate the process, upon the proposal of one-fifth and a resolution approved by a majority of two-thirds of the deputies in full exercise of their functions".

On Sunday, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa responded to the possibility of Chega filling a possible criminal suit:"In and out of election time, parties are free to take their own initiatives. That's life. It's part of democracy. Everyone has the initiative they think is best at that moment, whether it's electoral - taking advantage of the electoral moment - or non-electoral. And you can't stop that."

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