By: Lionel Baland
André Ventura is the leader of the Portuguese nationalist party Chega (That’s enough), which has 12 MPs. He was a candidate in the Portuguese presidential election of 2021 and obtained almost 12% of the vote. Lionel Baland met him for Breizh-info.
Breizh-info: Your party has made an electoral breakthrough in Portugal when it did not seem at all possible at the start. How do you explain this result?
André Ventura: Yes, many people did not believe it would happen. We are now the third largest party in Portugal, after the Socialists and the Social Democrats, and we hope to become the second very soon.
The reason for this success is that the people are unhappy. They are furious about different things that have happened in the last decade in Portugal: corruption, low wages compared to other countries and economic conditions. The Portuguese realize that Eastern European countries, which joined the European Union much later than Portugal, are experiencing faster and stronger economic growth than that of the latter. People hold the parties of the system, the socialists and the social democrats who alternately led successive governments, responsible for this situation. The people want real change and that explains why Chega is having such a good impact on the people and is growing so much.
Breizh-info: Does Portugal have an immigration problem?
André Ventura: We have now, but it is not, for example, comparable to the one in France. We have gone from the country of emigration, which we have been for decades, to a country of immigration.
We are not against all immigration and against the immigrants. We want the people who come to work, pay their taxes and take part in our common life and not destroy our culture or live on social security benefits from the state and taxpayers.
They are some risks. Thus, Portugal was, last year, the second country in the world in granting citizenship to foreigners. This is a problem. Nowadays, Portugal receives thousands of people, and now more people from Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. We have to be smart and discuss how to welcome them in order to have a society that lives in harmony and not in conflict between communities, made up of minorities on the one hand and the majority of the population on the other.
Breizh-info: With which political parties of other countries do you wish to be allied?
André Ventura: We are part of Identity and Democracy and we wish to remain so. Let us wait and see what happens in terms of the reconstruction of the right in Europe, between the conservatives and Identity and Democracy. We hope to have several MEPs elected in the next election. We are happy to be members of Identity and Democracy, we fight for Identity and Democracy and we are comfortable with that.
Breizh-info: And you have good relations with Vox in Spain?
André Ventura: Yes. The leader of Vox Santiago Abascal and I have a good relationship. In addition, our respective parties have meetings in common. This, while Vox is with the conservatives – from the ECR, the European Conservatives and Reformists – and we belong to Identity and Democracy. We are very similar in terms of growth and message, because the Portuguese problems are, in a number of areas, the same as those faced by the Spaniards. These are the reasons why our two parties have experienced such growth over the last two or three years.
Breizh-info: In Portugal, with which party do you want to take part in the government of the country?
André Ventura: The situation is difficult. The polls show it: even the best of them establish that we must go to power in coalition with the Social Democratic Party – of the center-right. We have already declared that we are ready to take part in such a government but with preconditions: the reform of the justice system, the tax system and the political system.
If the Social Democratic Party is available to sit down, talk and discuss such reforms, then perhaps we can negotiate a coalition for the next parliamentary elections and then form a government. Otherwise, this party will not have a majority to support its government. There will be no majority on the right without us and we will not be members of the executive. These reforms that we propose are the ones that Portugal needs: fight against corruption, tax reform, political reform, as well as some control of immigration.
Breizh-info: When did you found your political party, Chega?
André Ventura: Chega was founded in 2018. Most of the leaders are from the Social Democratic Party. So, it was people from that party who created Chega. We then found our place within the political space. In four years, we have gone from nothing to seventh place, then we are now third and we want to be first in four years.
Breizh-info: Do you have access to the media in Portugal?
André Ventura: At first, no. But as we have become the third political force in the country, we are now accepted in the media, but often they are hostile towards us. But now we receive the time that should normally be allocated to us according to the electoral results that we have won.
At the beginning, it was difficult because we were very strongly boycotted, both about our message and our activities.
Breizh-info: Do you have special relations with Brazil, a country where Portuguese is spoken?
André Ventura: Yes, because of our history and our language, but also in Portuguese-speaking Africa. We have very good relations with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and with his government.