In an unexpected turn of events, Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday, shortly after government buildings were subjected to police raids as part of a corruption and “influence peddling” investigation. The investigation centers around allegations of improprieties in lithium exploration concessions in northern Portugal and the development of a hydrogen-energy production plant and data center in Sines, on the southern coast.
This surprising development comes as an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Costa’s chief of staff. Mr. Costa, who had held the position of Prime Minister since 2015, expressed his astonishment at being drawn into criminal proceedings and emphasized that he had a clear conscience regarding any illicit activities. Despite this, he made the decision to resign, stating, “I believe that the dignity of the office of the prime minister is not compatible with any suspicion about your integrity, your good conduct and even less with the practical suspicion of any criminal act.”
Authorities authorized searches in 37 different locations, including the chief of staff’s office, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Infrastructure, a City Council office in Sines, and several private residences. Notably, the investigation implicated high-ranking officials, including the mayor of Sines, Portugal’s minister of infrastructure, and the head of Portugal’s Environmental Agency.
It is important to note that Portugal possesses significant lithium reserves, an essential component in electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy solutions.
Mr. Costa, who leads the Socialist Party, initially assumed office in 2015 after convincing two smaller left-wing parties to support his candidacy, despite losing the election. This alliance, dubbed a “geringonça” or “contraption,” defied expectations and remained intact, keeping Mr. Costa in power for several years. The Socialists secured a parliamentary majority in snap elections in 2022, granting Mr. Costa more stability in his leadership despite scrutiny over his economic stewardship, alongside his commendable handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.