Portugal's prime minister cites Greece as warning for voters

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal's prime minister is pointing to Greece's troubles as he seeks to persuade voters to re-elect his center-right coalition government and reject anti-austerity proposals from the main opposition Socialist Party.

With elections three months away, Pedro Passos Coelho said late Tuesday that Portugal cannot afford a repeat of its 2011 financial crisis, when it faced bankruptcy and required a 78 billion euro ($86 billion) bailout following six years of Socialist rule.

Pasoss Coelho said his government has started cutting government debt and reforming Portugal's economy, with growth of 0.9 percent last year after three straight years of recession.

He said in an interview with S.I.C. television "it's in the hands of the Portuguese to make that a lasting change or risk another path."

Austerity policies in Portugal and Greece's woes are set to be a central theme in the election due in early October.

Many analysts view Portugal as the 19-member eurozone's frailest member after Greece.

Financial markets, however, have recovered their confidence in the Portuguese economy. After investors turned their back on Portugal four years ago, the country is now having no difficulty raising loans on the open market. It sold 1.79 billion euros of 6- and 12-month Treasury bills Wednesday at interest rates of 0.014 percent and 0.088 percent, respectively.

In recent months as the Greek crisis deepened, the two governing coalition parties have pulled almost level with the Socialists in opinion polls. Last year, the Socialists had a healthy lead.

The government is most vulnerable on unemployment, which stands at 13 percent. That does not include some 400,000 Portuguese who have gone abroad to find work in recent years.

The Socialists are promising to ease off on taxes and, among other things, restore the four public holidays the government scrapped in a bid to improve output.