Portugal's president asked Socialist leader Antonio Costa on Monday to start work to form a government, but his call for the Socialists' far left partners to respect budget commitments to the EU prompted a swift rebuke from the Communists.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in a statement he had asked Costa for clarification on how a minority Socialist government would pass budgets, especially next year's, and about commitments to try to keep the budget deficit within European Union rules.
Cavaco Silva's move came amid deep political uncertainty following an inconclusive Oct. 4 election, which some analysts fear could undermine Portugal's economic recovery after the country exited a bailout in 2014. The austerity-minded centre-right won most votes, but lost their parliamentary majority.
The Communists, whose support Costa needs to ensure a majority in parliament, reacted angrily to the president's statement, potentially threatening the formation of a Socialist government. Costa also needs the backing of the Left Bloc in parliament to secure a majority.
The far left have so far not committed on paper to Socialist promises of sticking to EU budget goals.