Portuguese residents have grown sharply more critical of their leaders over the past year, as the economic crisis has affected more of them personally. Shortly before the Portuguese political crisis in July, more than two-thirds of adults disapproved of the country’s leadership, up from half in 2012. Portuguese disapproval of the European Union’s leadership and Germany’s leadership, which is often seen as the driving force behind austerity policies, has also surged.
Despite the 78-billion-euro bailout it received in 2011 from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, Portugal entered its worst recession since the 1970s. Ongoing debates over bailout-mandated spending cuts and tax increases led to the government’s near-collapse in July. Portugal’s governing center-right coalition suffered heavy losses in September’s municipal elections, reflecting residents’ dissatisfaction with the government that instituted the austerity measures.
More Are Struggling to Pay for Food, Shelter
In the second quarter of 2013, Portugal’s economy expanded for the first time since 2010. However, Portugal’s annual GDP is still expected to shrink in 2013. The sluggish economy and cuts to government funding have made more Portuguese vulnerable to poverty. The percentage saying there were times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed has doubled since 2011, reaching about one in five this year. The percentage saying there were times when they did not have enough money for shelter has also doubled in that time.
Portuguese perceptions that local economic conditions were getting worse surged from 37 percent in late 2009 to 56 percent in spring 2010. The government formally announced austerity measures, including spending cuts and tax increases, in March 2010; Standard & Poor lowered Portugal’s investment grade status the following month. Every year since then, a majority of Portuguese have seen their local economy as getting worse. That figure was close to two-thirds this June; however, this was before positive reports on growth in the second quarter.
Although Portugal continues to suffer from the effects of the 2008 financial and economic crisis and austerity measures, experts say the country may be on track to exit the bailout in mid-2014. Meanwhile, rising social tensions and waning support for national and EU leadership is putting the success of austerity measures at risk.