LISBON, Portugal – Portugal's government was in danger of collapse Tuesday after Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior party in the center-right coalition government, resigned over the bailed-out country's austerity policies.
Portas' announcement of his departure in a written statement came a day after Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar quit.
Portas had repeatedly spoken out against Gaspar's financial strategy of public sector pay and pension cuts and tax hikes. But Gaspar had the support of prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, head of the Social Democratic Party, the coalition's senior member.
Portas, who has demanded more measures to stimulate economic growth, said he disagreed with Passos Coelho's choice of Maria Luis Albuquerque to replace Gaspar. Albuquerque has endorsed the austerity which Portas wants eased.
"I respect (Albuquerque's appointment) but disagree with it," Portas said in the statement sent to reporters. He said that remaining in the government would be "politically unsustainable."
His statement came out around 30 minutes before Albuquerque was sworn into office in an official ceremony at the presidential palace and appeared to cause deep unease among Cabinet members attending the occasion. They declined to comment to reporters.
Portas did not say whether he would take his Popular Party out of the government — a step which would leave it without a parliamentary majority to push through its policies.
Austerity is widely blamed for driving the jobless rate to 17.6 percent and for what is forecast to be a third straight year of recession in 2013.
Portugal needed a 78 billion euros ($102 billion) bailout two years ago after a decade of weak growth and mounting debt pushed it to the verge of bankruptcy.