Portugal's new anti-austerity government makes more spending cuts in battle to lower deficit

Portugal's new anti-austerity Socialist government has hit a snag: it needs to introduce more cutbacks to keep its pledge of getting the budget deficit lower than 3 percent this year, as demanded by its eurozone partners and creditors.

Finance Minister Mario Centeno said after a Cabinet meeting Thursday the government is imposing a freeze on non-urgent spending through the end of the year and cutting 46 million euros ($50 million) in cash available for some departments.

He said the spending crackdown for the last three weeks of the year was due to "a series of deviations" from the national spending and revenue plan. He did not elaborate.

The Socialists took power two weeks ago, heading an anti-austerity alliance in Parliament that included the Communist Party and radical Left Bloc to unseat a center-right government. The Socialists have vowed to abide by eurozone debt-reduction rules while also easing austerity — a balancing act the government's critics doubt it will be able to pull off.

In a blow for Prime Minister Antonio Costa, an opinion poll published Thursday indicated that most Portuguese think the ousted prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, should still be in power.

In Portugal's Catholic University poll, commissioned by public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa and other media, 52 percent of those questioned thought Passos Coelho ought to be leading the country compared with 37 percent for Costa.

But at the same time, 49 percent of those questioned said they thought Portugal's president made the right decision by installing Costa, given his creation of a broad anti-austerity alliance, with 35 percent saying they disagreed. Others didn't answer or didn't know.

The poll of 1,183 adults was conducted in person on Dec. 5 and 6. It had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.