Portugal's infrastructure minister submitted his resignation on Tuesday (2 May) as a scandal around state-owned airline TAP widened, just four months after his predecessor resigned over the same issue, but the prime minister said he would keep him in the job.
The Socialist Party, led by Premier Antonio Costa, won an outright parliamentary majority in January 2022, but his government has been plagued by instability with more than 10 ministers and secretaries of state leaving their posts since.
In a statement, minister Joao Galamba said he was resigning "for the sake of the necessary institutional tranquillity", adding it was crucial for him to reaffirm that his ministry had "never sought to hide any fact or document" about TAP.
Shortly after, Costa said in a televised address that although the scandal had affected the government's image, he could not accept the resignation as he believed Galamba was "not responsible for any failure".
The decision puts Costa on a collision course with conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who has the power to dissolve parliament and has made clear he wants Galamba out.
Galamba's predecessor, Pedro Nuno Santos, resigned in December in the wake of a scandal involving an irregular severance payment to a former executive board member of TAP.
Opposition parties have claimed that Galamba concealed from parliament that he had proposed that then CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener meet Socialist lawmakers to prepare for her parliamentary hearing about her severance package.
Ourmières-Widener has since been fired after an official inspection found that the severance was illegal.
Galamba initially said the preparatory meeting was TAP's idea, but on Saturday he acknowledged it was he who had told Ourmières-Widener that, if she wanted, she could attend the meeting where his advisors would also be present.
The political drama further intensified as Galamba said that one of his advisors, who took notes on what was discussed at the meeting, was fired on Wednesday, and took a laptop with confidential information with him.
The laptop was later recovered by the national intelligence service SIS, leading to fresh accusations from the opposition of a government overreach since such cases are police matter.
On Sunday, Costa said that neither he nor any member of the government had given orders to SIS to recover the laptop.
The growing controversies around TAP could hinder Lisbon's plans to privatise the airline, with bigger foreign rivals Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways owner IAG laying the groundwork for potential bids.
($1 = 0.9089 euros)