Political Discontentment in Portugal Post-Troika: Risks and Opportunities
Political Institutions and Democracy in Portugal
Before the international economic and financial crisis of 2008 and its subsequent impact on Europe, notably through the sovereign debt crisis and the harsh austerity policies that followed, scholars are interested in issues related to both the democratic consolidation and the quality of democracies in Southern Europe (see Morlino 1998; Gunther, Diamandouros & Phule, 1995). In Portugal, after the international bailout from 2011 to 2014, the great question has passed also from the “quality of democracy” to the more or less evident signs of a "democratic deconsolidation", associated with the recessive economic situation and the growing dissatisfaction of the public. However, the crisis has also revealed, in Portugal, a particular political culture characterized by deeply dissatisfied and skeptical democrats, who have made the recourse to “exit” strategies of the political system (through electoral abstention) the prime “punishing” answer to the political class’s austerity policies. This is a very different attitude from the "critical citizens" spoken of by Norris and many other authors, who are characterized by a more demanding and challenging attitude towards the status quo through protest and vote in new radical and populist parties, as is happening in other peripheral European countries. In our country, the citizens' attitudes towards the political system in very hard times is far from watching the "innovative destruction" associated with the economic ideas of Joseph Schumpeter. This chapter, through the formulation of various research hypotheses, seeks to answer some of the following questions: Faced with the rapid resurgence of the narratives of Southern European “exceptionalism”, how was the Portuguese democracy able, or not able to weather the legitimacy crisis? To what extent do the diffuse and specific types of support for the political system remain independent of each other in these hard times? What changes have occurred in the evolution of these two types of political support during this period? Are there signs that the economic crisis created transitory (pendulum effects) or lasting and stronger effects (catalyst effects) in the legitimacy of the political system in the citizens’ eyes?