Guterres, António (Portugal)
António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres was Portuguese prime minister between 1999–2002, representing the Partido Socialista (Socialist Party, PSP). On the centre-left, he was the first European leader to embrace ‘new Socialism’ at the end of the 1990s, an example followed by Tony Blair among others. A pro-European, Guterres led Portugal into the single currency in 1999. But heavy public spending with little evident reward cost the PSP heavily in local elections in Dec. 1999. Guterres resigned the premiership and his leadership of the PSP.
Guterres was born on 30 April 1949 in Santos o Velho, Lisbon. Between 1966–72 he studied electronic engineering at the capital’s Instituto Superior Técnico. A Catholic activist in the Juventude Universitária Católica (1968–72), Guterres took to politics during the revolution of 1974, when he joined the PSP. A participant in the post-revolution provisional governments, Guterres was elected to the Assembly in 1976 where he served in the ministry of economics and finance until 1979. A member of the Committee on European Integration, which negotiated Portugal’s entry into the EU in 1986, he returned to domestic politics the following year, working to strengthen the PSP in opposition by adapting centrist policies. In 1992 he succeeded President Jorge Sampaio as leader of the PSP.
In the 1995 elections Guterres was elected prime minister with 43.9% of votes, ending 10 years of rule by the centre-right Partido Social Democrata (Social Democrats, PSD). Winning with a centrist manifesto, Guterres pledged to concentrate on social welfare, education and crime. He also planned a strict budgetary policy to prepare Portugal for the single currency. In his first term investment increased and public services and transport were improved. Unemployment fell to 5%. Portugal was accepted into the single currency in 1999.
In Oct. 1999 Guterres was re-elected prime minister with 44.1% of votes. The PSP’s parliamentary seats increased from 112 to 115 but the party strength fell short of an absolute majority. Left-wing parties, including the Communists, also increased their representation. Following a 7 year term as vice president of the Socialist International, Guterres was elected chairman in Nov. of the same year, succeeding the former French prime minister, Pierre Mauroy. For his second term, Guterres maintained a tight budgetary policy, concentrating on health care, welfare, taxes and justice.
On an international level, the transition of Portugal’s former colony Timor-Leste to self-government was hindered by attacks from Indonesian militia. A mass influx of refugees was coupled with anti-Indonesia demonstrations in Portugal. Guterres pledged a €264 m. aid package.
2000 was economically successful with a GDP increase of 3.5%. Unemployment was low as were interest rates, although inflation remained a worry. In 2000 a 10% increase in oil prices and concerns over rising crime levels led to public discontent. In Sept. the interior minister Fernando Gomes was sacked. Taking advantage of the government’s weakness, the opposition mounted an unsuccessful no-confidence vote. Guterres refused early elections.
In the first half of 2000, Portugal took over the EU presidency. Guterres promoted the idea of labour mobility within the EU by setting minimum levels of academic competence in maths, foreign languages and technology. Plans for tax harmonization were discussed at a summit at Oporto in June. In 2001 Guterres called for more power for the European Commission and the European parliament.
Increased public spending caused economic problems. Opposition politicians criticized the €400 m. invested in the hosting of the Euro 2004 football tournament. In Dec. 2001 the PSD’s success at the expense of the PSP led Guterres to resign as prime minister and to call early elections. In 2002 the PSD leader José Manuel Durão Barroso replaced him as prime minister.
Guterres initially continued in his role as president of Socialist International but in June 2005 became the new High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations. In Oct. 2016 he was elected as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to take office at the beginning of 2017.