PS and PSD argue that new debate model does not diminish scrutiny

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António Cotrim / Lusa

PS and PSD make a positive balance of the new model of debates with the Government in parliament, considering that the scrutiny of the executive has not diminished and even increased the depth and quality of political discussion.

Almost a year after the amendment of the Regiment that ended the biweekly debates with the prime minister, replacing them with monthly discussions with the Government (alternating between the executive leader and sectorial ministers), Lusa questioned PS and PSD – that the they approved alone, with opposition from the other benches and even some internal dispute – on the balance they made of the changes.

The balance we make is positive. As can be seen, no one ended the debates, the debates continue, only their regularity, their periodicity has changed”, said PSD leader Catarina Rocha Ferreira, who coordinated the work of the committee that reviewed the Rules of Procedure through her bench. Assembly of the Republic.

The deputy and vice president of the Social Democratic parliamentary group underlined that for the PSD the presence of the prime minister in parliament “it’s very important”, because it means their political accountability, but considers that the decrease in the number of times they respond to deputies on general policy “does not call into question neither democracy nor the government’s control of parliament”.

The deputy and socialist leader Porfírio Silva also underlined that “the parliament should be the central place for democratic debate and government oversight”, but rejected that the change in the debate model could have affected these functions.

“The scrutiny of the Government does not lose anything, on the contrary, with sectorial debates, the scrutiny of the Government with sectorial debates can even be tighter in this modality. Quite frankly, I don’t think democracy has lost, I do not think that the capacity of the parliament to oversee the Government’s actions has diminished, it seems to me that the balance is positive”, he considered.

In the same vein, Catarina Rocha Ferreira defended that the evaluation of the new model cannot be done only “by the number of debates” – in this legislative session there were four with the prime minister on general policy, plus four with other ministers, against ten biweekly debates in the previous session.

“What we have to look at is how the debates are now: the debate that had only one round now has two, allowing for a more exhaustive, deeper debate than before, that is, it improved the quality of the debates”, he pointed out, also highlighting the biggest “specialization” of debates with the regular presence of sector ministers.

On the other hand, the social-democratic deputy considered that the decrease in debates allows a better adjustment with the other functions of the parliament, which include the presentation of alternatives and legislative initiatives by the parties, and stressed that all other instruments of oversight of the executive, such as committee hearings, questions to the Government, interpellations, urgent debates or motions of censure, and there is even a new plenary debate on oversight of the executive’s action in regulating laws and responding to questions and requirements of the opposition.

When questioned whether they admit to improving this model, neither of the two party leaders rejected this scenario at the outset, but they consider that the new Regiment is going in the right direction.

“The PS parliamentary group is always interested in progressively adapting the modalities of the functioning of the parliament to the demands of society and democracy and in having a transparent political life, we never closed the door to any improvement”, stated Porfírio Silva.

However, for the member of the PS National Secretariat, “the idea that national politics and important debates in the country are only debated when the prime minister goes to the Assembly of the Republic is a wrong idea.”

“If what we want is for there to be a big personal confrontation between the prime minister and the opposition leader, maybe it would even be better to go every day, but if the idea is to have a serious, in-depth, sector-by-sector scrutiny, I I don’t think we lost anything, quite frankly”, he says.

Catarina Rocha Ferreira, meanwhile, pointed out that the new debate model has been in place for less than a year, “an unusual pandemic year”, it can even be “slightly improved”, but he reiterated that “this is the way”.

“Previously there was a more pronounced concern to mark the media agenda with banalities, the Portuguese want to be serious in the political debate and in the scrutiny of the Government, it’s not just listening sound bytes and exchange of pennants”, he considered.

For the Social Democrat deputy, the fact that there are no debates with the prime minister “week in, week out” allows her presence in the plenary to be valued and a more enlightening debate, in addition to considering the current model more suitable for the semi-government regime. Portuguese presidentialist.