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Social Democrats to Quit Portugal’s Ruling Coalition

Associated Press

Portugal’s Social Democrats said Tuesday that they will end the two-year-old coalition with Prime Minister Mario Soares’ Socialists, but not until after Portugal enters the European Economic Community next week.

The government is to sign the Common Market treaty June 12. Anibal Cavaco Silva, the Social Democrat leader, said the party’s seven ministers will leave the centrist coalition Cabinet the following day.

Cavaco Silva accused the Socialists of foot-dragging on economic reforms and “bad faith” in working out differences between the two parties.

He told reporters after meeting with Soares and President Antonio Ramalho Eanes, “Our party does not believe the Socialists want to take steps indispensable for this country’s progress.”

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The move was announced exactly two years after the country’s two largest parties agreed to form the coalition. It will mark the end of Portugal’s 15th government since the armed forces toppled half a century of right-wing dictatorship in 1974. The next elections were not due until 1987.

Eanes can dissolve Parliament and call early elections or let the Socialists try to form another government. If he decides to call elections, he has the choice of asking the current Cabinet to remain as caretaker or appointing an interim administration.

The president’s office did not issue a statement, and there was no immediate indication when Eanes will make his decision.

Soares said nothing after the meeting, but Socialist Party spokesman Pedro Coelho said the pullout had been expected. The Socialist policy-making body is to meet tonight to discuss the party’s next move.

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Social Democrats’ demands included easing labor laws, streamlining the massive public sector and boosting incentives to the private sector.

Another major factor is the presidential election, to be held in either November or December.

Soares is expected to run. Cavaco Silva and other members of the Social Democrats’ conservative faction favor Diogo Freitas do Amaral, a former leader of the conservative Christian Democrats.

Eanes cannot seek a third five-year term.

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