|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.47, 20.12.01, p1|
EU commissioner António Vitorino is coming under intense pressure from members of Portugal's ruling Socialists to replace António Gutteres as party leader.
The justice and home affairs chief has been tight-lipped since Guterres quit as prime minister on Monday after a disastrous showing by his party in local elections.
A popular political figure in Portugal, former deputy prime minister Vitorino is seen by some pundits as the only person who could secure a Socialist victory in the general election expected in February or March.
The party's executive is due to meet on Saturday to consider who should succeed Guterres. "Everyone is phoning Vitorino and saying "my darling, you should return because now is the right moment; if you wish to become Prime Minister," said one Portugese official.
"The whole party is down on its knees begging him."
Vitorino's spokesman Leonello Gabrici said that he was not aware of the commissioner's intentions. But he admitted that officials were "quite worried" about the prospect of Vitorino leaving. "They see him as a very patient and honest broker," added Gabrici.
Combining a legal and parliamentary career since the 1980s, Vitorino was appointed defence minister and deputy PM in 1995. He quit two years later after becoming embroiled in a tax row.
Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar is to step down on 8 January. He said he feared that squabbling in his ruling coalition could harm the Baltic state's chances of being among the first wave of enlargement countries joining the EU in 2004.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Portugal|