António Costa’s time as leader of the Portuguese Socialist Party is coming to an end. This weekend, at the 24th national congress in Lisbon, Costa will give his last speech as the party’s former secretary general.
This congress will also mark the coronation of his successor, Pedro Nuno Santos. However, before history can fully assess Costa’s legacy, the Supreme Court must present its findings on an ongoing investigation into his alleged illicit intervention in several energy projects.
Investigation was the trigger for his resignation last November and has had a significant impact on Portuguese politics.
A Political and Economic Legacy
António Costa assumed the leadership of the Socialist Party in 2014 and a year later became Portugal’s prime minister, following a no-confidence motion endorsed by the entire left.
During his term, Costa broke taboos by allying with the Bloco de Esquerda and the Communist Party in a parliamentary alliance known as “geringonça.” This coalition allowed Costa to maintain political stability and carry out his government agenda.
On the economic front, Costa focused on cleaning up the public accounts and avoiding situations such as the one that led Portugal to request a financial bailout in 2011.
While his policy of budget containment has reduced the country’s public debt, currently at around 100% of GDP, it has also generated criticism due to insufficient spending in key areas such as public health and education.
Challenges and Controversies
Throughout his term, António Costa faced a number of challenges and controversies. One of the most controversial issues was his alleged involvement in irregularities related to energy projects. Although Costa has denied any illicit involvement, the ongoing judicial investigation has generated uncertainty about his political future.
Another major challenge was the precariousness of teachers and the massive mobilizations that occurred in the education sector during his administration. Despite the criticism, Costa managed to maintain political stability and avoid early elections.
Despite the challenges and controversies, António Costa’s legacy also includes outstanding achievements. One of them is his push for energy transition and the development of renewable energy in Portugal. By 2023, 61% of the electricity consumed in the country would come from renewable sources, thanks to the policies implemented by Costa’s government.
In the international arena, Costa has been recognized as a reliable and dialoguing political leader. He has established strong relationships with leaders from different political spectrums, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. However, these relationships have also generated criticism and controversy in Portugal.
António Costa’s future
The political future of António Costa is closely linked to the outcome of the ongoing judicial investigation. If the Supreme Court concludes that there is no evidence of his illicit intervention, Costa is likely to continue his political career at the European level.
He is expected to participate in the European Parliament elections as a Socialist candidate, and could hold some relevant position in the European Union.
António Costa’s time as leader of the Portuguese Socialist Party has been marked by both achievements and controversies. Although his government has managed to clean up public accounts and promote the energy transition, it has also faced criticism for insufficient spending in key areas.
Costa’s future will depend on the conclusions of the judicial investigation, but his legacy in Portuguese politics has already left a significant mark.