Monday, February 12, 2007
Whatever your position on the age-old debate about abortion, and few people are ever agnostic on this issue, the news from Portugal today is not good.
Portugal, like Ireland, does not provide for legal abortion. As part of his election platform, Prime Minister Jose Socrates had vowed to introduce abortion on demand up until the tenth week of pregnancy.
But when he put the issue to the Portuguese people, only 40% of the electorate actually voted. In Portugal a referendum has to be voted on by half of the electorate as well as receive a majority of the vote if it is to pass.
That's the law. So the referendum wasn't passed.
Now this wasn't apathy. This happened because many people who oppose abortion in Portugal stayed away from the polls, realising perhaps that the divisive issue was likely to pan out against their position. And so it has occured, with an estimated 60% of those who voted approving the change in law.
But even though Mr Socrates did not receive the endorsement he sought, he has decided to push on with the plan to introduce legalised abortion anyway.
This effectively makes the whole referendum meaningless. If Socrates, clearly not as smart as his ancient Greek namesake, intended to ignore the laws of the country and the will of the people in this manner, why bother wasting the time and effort of holding a vote in the first place?
In other words, like Bertie Ahern, who kept holding referenda in Ireland on the Nice Treaty until the people voted the way he liked, Mr Socrates prefers to ignore the will of his electorate, the people he is supposed to serve, when their opinions get in the way of what he wants to do.
This is the opposite of democracy. This is Salazar all over again. I hope that Portuguese people, no matter what their opinion on the emotive issue of abortion, will unite to reject the fascist tendencies of their allegedly socialist Prime Minister.