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SPAIN: AT BREAKING POINT? A political and economic analysis for 2013 IBERIANS OF THE YEAR: The most influential people and groups of 2012

Pedro Passos Coelho

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Pedro Passos Coelho

How do you impose the toughest austerity measures a country has experienced in more than three decades and increase your popularity ratings at the same time? Ask Pedro Passos Coelho, Portugal’s spendthrift but widely admired prime minister. Elected in June in a historic victory for his centre-right Social Democratic Party, the seemingly impermeable Passos Coelho has embarked on a long list of economic, fiscal and labour market reforms going beyond anything demanded by the EU and the IMF as part of debt-laden Portugal’s bail-out package. Though his strategy to bring Portugal’s debt and public account deficit into line has stirred controversy – and a general strike – the reason for Coelho’s broad political success may lie in his openness. Rather than mislead voters in the run-up to the election, he told them straight that tough times would lie ahead – and they voted for him nonetheless. He has stuck to his promise ever since in the belief that Portugal will emerge fitter, leaner and economically stronger for it. His popularity won’t last forever, but for the time being the majority of Portuguese appear to have given this knife-wielding Duracell bunny of a politician the benefit of the doubt.

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