“Vitória, Vitória Vitória!” Those were the words that were being shouted by the masses of ecstatic people in front of the Portuguese Republic Assembly (São Bento Palace, Lisbon), after the new left wing coalition – the majority in the parliament, after the recent elections – rejected the old right wing government.
When we arrived at 15.00 there was already a good amount of people, estimating at 1500 to 2000, with the beautiful sun shining on everyone’s happy faces. While we were all waiting election, live music was shifting the crowd’s mood. The demonstrators were singing songs, waving their banners and placards and shouting slogans, such as: “The people united will never be defeated”, “The 25th of April forever, fascism for never more” and “We only want the left wing in power”.
Somehow those feelings were very contagious, without really knowing what exactly was going on, we cheered on with the mass. Thankfully our very eager co-worker, Francisco, explained the stages of the demonstration. Talking with our co-workers, they couldn’t help mention that they haven’t seen people this cheerful in the last four years, but still, was this going to really change things? We were all critical about it. Francisco explained that it would probably not make that big a difference, but that it had to start somewhere. For example, in 2011 the retirement of the pensioners was almost cut in half. This will be returned to the state were it was in before 2011. But things like the minimum wage will probably only augment by a hundred euros in four years (so instead of 500 it will be 600). Although these are small changes, the people of Portugal have been in such a desperate state, that ANY change in a more democratic path, enhances their hope to a more liveable future.
What caught our eye was that the public was quite old. But after understanding where the progress was mainly going to, it was not so strange. And it was not hard to imagine that it is almost impossible to survive from a retirement when it got cut in half. So especially elderly people where very happy with the progress. With a beer in one hand and a placard in the other we enjoyed the day that was coming to an end.
By Gwynn Ypma and Zoe Bonnet