The Portuguese Interior Minister and the President of the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC) resigned October 18th and 19th, respectively, after wildfires raged in Portugal and the Portuguese parliament introduced a vote of no confidence against Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s government.
A series of wildfires in the centre and north of Portugal killed 42 people and injured 71 others, according to the latest numbers provided by the ANPC. The wildfires consumed around 280,000 hectares of forest in central Portugal and thousands fled the area.
The current wildfires followed a series of fires in June, the nation’s deadliest, partly caused by Portugal’s driest summer in ninety years. The government faces mounting criticism since June regarding its response to fires and natural disasters.
Public criticism of Prime Minister Costa’s government grew amid a perceived weak response to the disasters. He previously enjoyed high approval ratings due to an improving economy.
Protesters took to the streets of Lisbon, the capital, yelling “Shame!” and “Resign!”
The centre-right CDS-PP, the People’s Party, introduced a largely symbolic motion of no confidence against Costa’s government in parliament. The Socialists currently govern in coalition with two left-wing parties and only need abstain to sink the vote.
The following day, Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa resigned due to the significant backlash to her response to the wildfires. Joaquim Leitão, the president of the ANPC, resigned a day later over his leadership of the firefighters and emergency responders.
Portugal’s largely ceremonial right-wing President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, called on parliament to debate the continuity of the current government and insisted it must have a strong mandate to enforce crucial fire fighting reforms. Under the Portuguese constitution, the President has the power to dissolve parliament.
The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) foresees a new stretch of dry, hot weather following recent precipitation. “Between the 22nd and the 25th of October, a new period without precipitation if foreseen,” said the IPMA, with “temperatures between 25 and 30 °C for the maximum values and relative air humidity below 40%.” The IPMA does not expect current rains to improve the wildfire conditions, but does expect rain on the 26th.
Portugal held three days of national mourning for the victims from Tuesday to Thursday.