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Posted by portugalpress on March 30, 2015
Madeira has new president … after 37 years

Finally, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira - governed for the last 37 years by outspoken politician Alberto João Jardim - is in the hands of a new ‘president’, former PSD mayor of Funchal Miguel Albuquerque.

No relation to Portugal’s finance minister Maria Luís Albuquerque, Madeira’s new man-at-the-top is nonetheless well-connected, being the grandson of one of the military leaders of the Revolution on his mother’s side and a descendant of one of Portugal’s “almost monarchical” ancestral lines (Canto de Albuquerque) through his Azorean father.

A former championship swimmer, accomplished jazz musician, writer, lawyer and cultivator of rare roses, Madeira’s new leader is also a father-of-five, divorced, a keen hunter and aficionado of designer stubble.

A more contrasting figure to pop-eyed wobbly-chinned Jardim one could hardly imagine, but Albuquerque - described by friends as “stubborn, elitist and with a loathing for bureaucrats” - swept the board, leaving the PS opposition smarting in third place behind the CDS.

“I always believed this was possible,” the 53-year-old declared in his inaugural speech on Sunday.

Running under the slogan “Renovation for Madeira”, he said there was “a lot of work” ahead - an understatement for the regional government that has been frequently compared to Greece for its flagrant overspending.

Madeira’s debt stood at over €6 billion when the current coalition came to power in 2011 and almost toppled the government as much of it remained expertly undeclared until 2013 when Portugal tried to make a return to bond markets.

“There are no miracle solutions,” Albuquerque told his audience - but the mood was positive despite the fact that the PSD result was in fact the lowest in terms of percentages since 1976.

Abstention too was “historic” with more than 50% of islanders not bothering to cast their votes.

Casting his own vote in Funchal on Sunday, outgoing Jardim claimed he was leaving power without any fond memories of the party which he represented “principally because of the PSD in Lisbon”.

Jardim leaves a legacy of remarks that earned him the title of “El Maestro del Insulto” (the master of insults), awarded by Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

He has called Angela Merkel “ignorant”, journalists “bastards” and Portugal’s Constitutional Court “a subversion of democracy”. When Moody’s ratings agency downgraded Madeira’s debt in 2011, Jardim declared that Moody's inspectors were “banned from the island”.

Thus Madeira is truly ready for a change - and toasting it may become all the sweeter for Miguel Albuquerque’s supporters as the wine produced locally by his brother Francisco continues to win international prizes.

Photo: TIAGO PETINGA/LUSA

By NATASHA DONN
natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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