Thursday, January 27, 2005

The one with the politics

About a year ago, Jose Saramago, Portuguese Nobel prize-winner for literature, published his latest novel 'Ensaio sobre a lucidez' (loosely translated as 'On lucidity'). This fictional account starts on election day, when the disillusioned population of the nation's capital casts a blank vote with 90% majority. Ludicrous situations then ensure when the political parties try to deal with the situation. I have since watched in disbelief as the real political situation in Portugal has got more and more ridiculous, surpassing by far the book.

There are going to be early elections on the 20th February. In the most appropriate gesture and showing a very good sense of humour, here's what's happening:

Lisbon stunt offers comic relief

Clownish red stickers have appeared on the noses of the leaders of Portugal's political parties on large billboards ahead of next month's general election.
The stickers were first spotted last week, and have spread to posters across Lisbon's main avenues. The Socialist Party was particularly crimson over a red nose stuck on an image of its leader outside party headquarters, next to a police station. Police said they would monitor the posters in the run-up to the polls. No political party has been spared.
Jose Socrates, leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, is standing for prime minister and has a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the 20 February election.
The red nose campaign appears to be coordinated and organised. A ladder would be needed to reach most of the party leaders' noses. Lisbon police said they had no idea who was behind the stunt but were keeping a special watch on the billboards.
Billboards of the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party also display new red stickers.

And as I always like to have real data to back me up, here's what a friend sent me:

The average salary in Portugal is the lowest in the European Union - 645€ (129.000 escudos, approximately 450£) We beat off Greece, our traditional rivals in 'the poorest' or 'worst off' subjects with ease (Greece's average salary is 1167 € and the second lowest in Europe, it still is almost double that of Portugal). Great Britain's the third highest average wage in Europe with about 1850£ a month. In passing I note that what I'm getting is just above the poverty limit, as defined by 60% of the average British wage.

When you consider that although things are cheaper in Portugal than here, they certainly aren't a third of the price (except rent maybe compared to London), and that they definitely aren't cheaper than in Greece, you can see how serious this is... So red noses aren't enough, some more funny ideas needed!


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