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Hands off our marquises!

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Many apartment blocks in Portuguese cities have a slightly higgledy-piggledy look due to customized modifications and enclosures of balconies, known as a “marquise”. Some town and city councils, including Almada across the river from Lisbon, are trying to standardize the appearance of buildings by getting residents to legalize their beloved marquises, used to stow a household ‘junk” and often a place to put washing machines in cramped flats. Many oppose the proposed law changes which will increase property taxes as apartments boost their square meterage.

Publico sends a crack investigative team to gape at the marquise of President Anibal Cavaco Silva. His relatively modest family home in Lisbon is off Avenida Infante Santo. A neighbour points to the president’s two marquises, the Cavaco Silva’s have bought the first-floor flat next door. One of the president’s probably illegal balconies has smart white blinds while the other is mirror glazed.

Portuguese TV showed the newly elected and beaming head of state in his marquise (on left) on election night in 2006. At the time one media wag doubted if President George W. Bush had ever set foot in a marquise, let alone allow himself to be filmed in one.

Written by porkncheezer

May 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

Portugal’s next leader?

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Expresso this week runs a keen eye over Portugal’s probable next prime minister. Pedro Passos Coelho, leader of the PSD centre-right opposition party, is ahead in opinion polls for June elections. His party joined forces with other Portuguese opposition groups to block Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ latest raft of austerity measures. The government then resigned and polls are set for June 5.

So what makes Mr Passos Coelho tick? Well, the forty-six year old is the youngest of four siblings and, therefore, highly driven, and spent most of his childhood in Angola, returning to Portugal after the former colony gained its independence in 1975. He spent most of his youth in remoter regions of northern Portugal, which has endowed him with an inner calm gleaned,  to a certain degree, from living cheek by jowl with salt of the earth country folk, according to Expresso. A largely absent father made him self-reliant and bookish and still prone to signing snippets of Grand Opera after listening to Maria Callas records in his rural isolation, says one childhood chum. He’s also said to like singing fado.

He rose rapidly through the PSD ranks to become leader of its youth wing and was appointed as adviser to a government department on youth affairs in the 1980s. Passos Coelho was also the brains behind the popular Cartao Jovem discount scheme for students and young people which is still going strong. He has three children, all daughters from two marriages and No 2 spouse used to sing in Girl Band Doce.

Passos Colelho’s friends and acquaintances also give Expresso accounts of his frugality and penny-pinching tendencies. He drives an old banger that is too small to transport all his family members, some of whom have to catch a train to holiday with the rest of the clan. He remains cool in a crisis and is unlikely to get emotional during political debate with his adversaries, the same inner-circle of admirers say.

This purported sang froid will soon be put to the test during Portugal’s pre-poll hustings coming to a street or shopping centre near you very soon. Maybe Mr P.C. will make a personal call on you. He could even woo your vote with a song. Portugal’s opposition chief has no government experience and his Socialist opponents will not shy away from exploiting this lacuna in the forthcoming campaign. The PSD opposition is currently ahead in polls but things could still be tight after votes are counted. Portugal’s next administration could well be a coalition.

Written by porkncheezer

April 23, 2011 at 8:41 am

Posted in politics