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Portugal's PM responds to foreign minister Paulo Portas' resignation

Portugal's Foreign minister Paulo Portas is the second minister to resign; Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar stepped down Monday.

Portugal minister resignationEnlarge
Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho (C) and the President of the portuguese parliament, Assuncao Esteves (R) greet former Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar (2L) at Belem Palace in Lisbon on July 2, 2013. The shock resignation of Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar has put the government in a dilemma. (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Portugal's Prime Minister addressed the recent resignations that have sent his government into turmoil Tuesday, after Foreign Minister Paul Portas stepped down just a day after Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said he was leaving his position. 

Pedro Passos Coelho refused to resign, and rejected the resignation of his coalition partner, saying in a televised address that he would not give up on his country, GlobalPost's Paul Ames reported.

Socialist opposition leader Antonio Jose Seguro said that Portugal needed elections in the wake of the resignations, which come amid the country's recent struggle with bailout reforms.

Coelho's approach to continue to enact fiscal discipline and replace Gaspar with pro-privatization Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque prompted Portas' resignation.  

"I presented my resignation this morning," Portas said in a statement e-mailed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. "My decision is irrevocable."

“The prime minister decided to follow the path of mere continuity at the Finance Ministry,” Portas added. “I respect that but disagree.”

Coelho is the head of Portugal's rightist CDS-PP party, and Portas' departure has compromised the party's stability considerably. 

"It looks like the end-game for the government," Antonio Costa Pinto, a political scientist, told Reuters. "There is a possibility of the government staying on in minority with conditional support from CDS-PP, but the opposition will demand a new election and the president will be in a difficult situation."

"The back-to-back resignations throw the political opposition to reform in Portugal into sharp relief and pose serious questions about the country's ability to push ahead, let alone exit, its troubled bailout program," said Nicolas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

The Portuguese government, which came to power in early elections in June 2011, is increasingly isolated: last week marked the the fourth general strike organized by trade unions, and business leaders in the country are also increasingly skeptical of Coelho's plan to bring the country back from its financial crisis. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130702/portugal-prime-minister-speech-foreign-minister-paulo-portas-resignation