Portugal President Anibal Cavaco Silva has appointed Goa-origin Antonio Costa as the new prime minister after the government formed following the October 4 election lasted barely 11 days – the shortest in the country’s history.
Costa’s Socialist Party (PS) did not win the election but he cobbled together a coalition of left parties that has a little more than the majority mark in the 230-member Assembly. His party finished second, with 86 seats.
A former popular mayor of Lisbon, 54-year-old Costa is the latest in the large Indian diaspora across the globe to reach top political positions – from Fiji to New Zealand and Guyana and from Mauritius to Malaysia to Singapore to South Africa to Britain and beyond.
The coalition government installed after the election and headed by Pedro Passos Coelho, which did not have a majority, was voted out by the Costa-led opposition, paving the way for the first Socialist government supported by left parties since dictatorship was overthrown in 1974.
Costa, who had promised to ease austerity measures imposed by a large financial bailout package, is likely to have an uneasy tenure. He has had to agree to six conditions laid down by the president, mainly focussing on continuing austerity measures.
Known as “Babush” (the Konkani word for boy), Costa was born in Lisbon in 1961. He has several relatives at Margao in Goa, where a cheer went up when the Portugal President made the announcement on Tuesday evening.
Costa is the son of prominent novelist Orlando da Costa, whose writings included essays on Rabindranath Tagore. His father spent most of his youth in Goa, then under Portuguese rule.
He has held several positions in previous governments and in the European Union.
Costa’s grandfather, Luis Afonso Maria da Costa, who was born and brought up in Goa, was a descendant of prominent Hindu families who converted to Christianity during the centuries of Portuguese rule.
Portugal was the first western country to colonise parts of India in the early sixteenth century, and the last to leave, on December 19, 1961.