Early in his first term as president of the PSD, Rui Rio defined the 2021 municipal elections as the key moment for assessing his leadership. He made it clear that his objective was not to win the 2019 legislatures, not least because he thought he did not have time for this, but rather to recover the PSD for the 2021 municipalities.
He did not win the legislatures, he lost votes and deputies, even after having a defeat in the Europeans, but he remained firm in his post, he was re-elected and continues to keep his eyes on October 2021. And, at the beginning of this 38th Congress, which takes place this weekend in Viana do Castelo, he defined the goal for these elections.
"We have, in 2021, to recover the lost ground in 2013 and 2017. To recover mayors, but also councilors and parish voters", said Rui Rio in his opening speech of the Congress, already after having elected the municipal elections as the main moment to measure the strength of the party.
“The implantation of a party force is measured, firstly, by the dimension of its presence in the local authorities. More than the number of deputies he manages to elect to the Assembly of the Republic, it is the number of elected mayors that, from a structural point of view, measures the true strength of a party in society ”, defended Rio.
Now, the PSD currently has the presidency of 98 city councils. After the 2009 municipal councils, there were 138. There are therefore 40 chambers to be recovered, but Rio has already pointed out an escape in case it is not possible to recover the lost chambers: in those where it was not possible, at least to increase the number of councilors and municipal deputies.
The goal is difficult, recognizes the president of the social-democratic mayors, who is also clear in the mistakes that led to the defeats of 2013 and 2017: internal wars and bad choices.
Against this, the PSD was supposed to leave Viana do Castelo united, pacified and mobilized. That was the promise left by winners and losers after two laps on the right. It was the promise of the first day of the congress, which the second day denied.
The speech of Luís Montenegro, the candidate defeated in the second round, who believes he owns the 47 percent he had, showed a divided and injured party, not as a wounded man in recovery, but as a wounded animal that reacts to the touch of self-defense. Montenegro began by giving a speech by an alleged opposition leader, with considerations on the state of the country. But I also wanted to put a red line on Rui Rio: the PSD cannot be António Costa's “lifeline” if the contraption fails.
Some congressmen began to get impatient, Paulo Mota Pinto, president of the Congress, warned him several times that time was up. Montenegro also condemned the “fanaticisms” and defended that the PSD “needs to breathe more freedom”, but ended the speech promising that it will not be silent, with the applause trying to silence the whistles.
Salvador Malheiro, some congressmen later, showed how Rui Rio's leadership is unforgiving and is not available to embrace his opponent now, despite the greeting exchanged between Montenegro and the party president.
He condemned those who “criticized Rio for the mere pleasure of criticism and doing damage”, accused them of having caused electoral losses to the party. "And now they say that they are not to blame," accused this vice-president of the party, for whom "the militants realized this and, for this reason, renewed their confidence in Rui Rio".
“The party needs loyalty,” said Malheiro, who shortly after heard José Eduardo Martins, a supporter of Pinto Luz, reply that “loyalty is to come here to say eye to eye” what everyone thinks, “it is not shaking your head and say yes".
To unite without revenge, to congregate instead of retaliating, to mobilize the many who at this congress were available for the municipal battles, these are the challenges of Rui Rio, who will have in the way he deals with the difference the great measure of his success. Or, as Miguel Pinto Luz told him, his opponent defeated in the first round: “Don't be afraid of the difference, embrace it, because it is a great asset. Our diversity is our greatest asset. ”