Portugal president throws politics into disarray

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Portugal’s president threw the bailed-out euro zone country into disarray on Thursday after rejecting a plan to heal a government rift, igniting what critics called a “time bomb” by calling for early elections next year. President Anibal Cavaco Silva proposed a cross-party agreement between the ruling coalition and opposition Socialists to guarantee wide support for austerity measures needed for Portugal to exit its bailout next year, followed by elections. The surprise move came just when conservative Prime Minister Paolo Passos Coelho thought he had overcome a cabinet crisis by reaching a deal to keep his center-right coalition together. The decision was a warning shot to all mainstream parties indicating the conservative president does not think any of them is capable of ruling effectively until the EU-IMF bailout is due to expire in June 2014. “We are in a situation which demands that the political parties leave their comfort zone,” said Marina Costa Lobo, a political scientist at the University of Lisbon. It was hard to predict how political leaders would cope with the president’s challenge until they held internal party meetings and consultations with the president.