Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, opened the Olhão 32nd Seafood Festival on Thursday evening, along with plenty of socialist back-up with Minister of the Sea, Ana Paula Vitorino, the Deputy Minister, Eduardo Cabrita and José Apolinário, the Secretary of State for Fisheries and Miguel Freitas, the Secretary of State for Forestry and Regional Development.
The idea was to bolster support for the socialist mayor, António Pina, who hopes to be re-elected on October 1st but is facing dwindling support as he attempts with increasing desperation to pull in favours and appeal to a jaded electorate.
The Prime Minister’s imperial entourage also included the MP António Eusébio, who wants to be the Faro mayor, Custódio Moreno the Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude’s regional president, Francisco Serra the CCDR-Algarve President, Luís Graça MP and president of the Faro socialist party, Vítor Aleixo the mayor of Loulé and Fernando Severino the Regional Director of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Algarve, as well as every one of Olhão’s councillors and executive.
Waiting for the Prime Minister was a group of protestors from the Users Commission of the Via do Infante, led by Algarve Left Bloc MP João Vasconcelos, who caught António Costa’s attention but was told that the government already has reduced tolls and that was that.
The Prime Minister’s appeal was magnetic as he smiled his way through the crowd, kissing anything that looked kissable, shaking hands and clapping people on the back as if they were long-lost friends.
The prospect of losing Olhão to the opposition PSD party was sufficient to get this impressive team together for a night listening to the songs of Tony Carreira, munching seafood from the polluted waters of the Ria Formosa and generally pressing the flesh and remembering to smile at all times.
At the last local election, Antónia Pina won Olhão for the socialists by a whisker and has done little to recommend himself to locals despite his personable manner and impressive use of local cafes.
The mayor’s climb down over Olhão’s historic centre redevelopment, to include what was dubbed ‘Pina’s Erection,’ was humiliating and the plan to develop the market area and sea front has not gone down well, mainly as it has not been thought through.
Pina’s granting of planning permission, quite illegally, to two Britons building a house on Armona also is set to blow up in his face with a protest and more international publicity due on August 17th.
The suspicions surrounding Pina’s every project, with mutterings of backhanders and jobs for the boys, may or not be justified, but his lack of dialogue and inclusion has gained him few friends with even his local socialist party deselecting him to run as mayor – a situation Pina only resolved by appealing to the regional socialist party to impose him on Olhão.
A prime minister’s visit is always welcome in the Algarve but this one to Olhão was timed specifically to lend Pina a hand in what may turn out to be a fruitless struggle.
Olhão mayor, António Pina and Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa