In Portugal Government, A Case of One Family Tie Too Many

(Bloomberg) -- A secretary of state and an aide stepped down from Portugal’s Socialist government on Thursday amid allegations of nepotism, the first resignations since Prime Minister Antonio Costa came under fire last month over family ties within his government.

Secretary of State for Environment Carlos Martins announced that he’s quitting amid controversy surrounding his 2016 appointment of aide Armindo dos Santos Alves. News website Observador reported earlier in the week the two men are cousins.

Costa, who accepted Martins’ resignation, is under fire from opposition parties for leading a government staffed with officials who are related to each other, including a married couple and a father and daughter. The controversy has caused unease in the minority government, which faces a general election in October.

"I understand that this is a subject that can harm the government, the Socialist party and the prime minister," Martins said in a statement released by the Environment Ministry.

Internal Administration Minister Eduardo Cabrita serves in the government along with his wife, Seas Minister Ana Paula Vitorino, while Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva is the daughter of Labor Minister Jose Antonio Vieira da Silva.

Costa says no one in the government has their job due to family ties. The total population in Portugal was estimated at 10.3 million people in 2017, according to the country’s national statistics agency.

“The idea that this is a closed government is false," Costa said in parliament on Thursday. "I’ve never appointed anyone because of their family ties."

The prime minister also said it’s unacceptable for a government official to directly appoint a family member to a post.

Rui Rio, the leader of the center-right opposition Social Democratic Party, on Wednesday said that the family links within the government have “surpassed all limits.”

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