Antonio Costawho has been Prime Minister of Portugal for three consecutive terms since 2015, resigned abruptly and irrevocably last week, when the Portuguese prosecutor’s office made public a corruption investigation that directly affected him. In addition, the Public Ministry ordered the imprisonment of two people of his utmost confidence: his then Chief of Staff, Vítor Escáriaand the businessman, lawyer and friend of his Diogo Lacerda for alleged illegal allocations of lithium and green hydrogen businesses.
His resignation caused an unprecedented crisis in Portugal. To save it, the president of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousaannounced the call for elections, but not immediate ones, but the March 10th. Meanwhile, the head of State wants the current acting Government to definitively approve the General Budgets, on November 29, and give time to the Socialist Party (PS) to recover from the earthquake that affected him completely.
However, between Sunday and this Tuesday, the case that has shaken Portugal and the European socialism has deflated in a very significant way. The criminal investigation judge Nuno Dias Costa considers that there are no serious signs of corruption and prevarication that the Prosecutor’s Office did see.
Thus, The judge has decided to release the five detainees -although he has taken away their passports to prevent their escape-. And he has considered that the Prosecutor’s Office’s suspicions of corruption are “vague” and “generic.” Furthermore, “the coercive measures proposed by the Public Ministry, such as deprivation of liberty, in relation to the accused Diogo Lacerda and Vítor Escária, are clearly disproportionate,” the magistrate stated. Faced with such a blatant disavowal, The Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it will file an appeal against these measures.
Costa’s resignation and withdrawal from national politics seems, however, irreversible. The former mayor of Lisbon also kept his international prestige intact – in fact he sounded like a candidate to preside over the European Council– and was one of the main references of the European Socialist Party together with the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the Spanish Chancellor, Pedro Sánchez. However, his last government with an absolute majority – since March 2022 – had suffered great wear and tear. Costa’s former aura as the great leader and the peacemaker of Portuguese politics had deteriorated in the neighboring country.