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Tamaño letra

Leftist parties ask Portuguese president to call early elections

Next government will have to take tough measures, warns Sócrates

Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva continued meeting Friday with the leaders of the six parties represented in parliament to discuss whether to call early elections in wake of the collapse of the Socialist-minority government Wednesday night when Prime Minister José Sócrates resigned.

Leftist parties asked Cavaco Silva to dissolve parliament and call elections for June 5 while leaving the current government intact until then. Cavaco Silva has 55 days to announce early elections if a government cannot be formed through a consensus in the assembly.

Speaking for the Socialists, Labor Minister Helena André said they don't fear an early race because they feel they "have complied with their mandate" and are "willing to continue working for the nation."

Sócrates resigned after failing to muster support for a broad package of tough austerity measures, including taxing pensions above 1,500 euros. In Brussels, where he attended a European Union summit, Sócrates said that regardless of who is elected the next government will have to introduce strong fiscal measures in order to reduce the current budget deficit, which stands at 7 percent of GDP.

The leader of the main opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD), Pedro Passos Coelho, said he favored increasing taxes on consumption rather than cutting public workers' salaries and pensions. According to a poll published in the Portuguese newspaper "Diario Economico," the PSD would be favored to win if the elections were held today. But Sócrates is not without support.

He is expected to win re-election as secretary general of his Socialist Party (PS) in an internal race this weekend- a spot that will give him another shot at the prime minister's job.