Reuters International

Portugal's Culture Minister Joao Soares signs the honour book during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers at Ajuda Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

(reuters_tickers)

By Andrei Khalip

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese Culture Minister Joao Soares resigned on Friday, a day after threatening to slap critics who had called him incompetent and rude.

A post on his Facebook page saying he wanted to slap two newspaper columnists, followed by what was seen as a half-hearted apology, provoked a flurry of calls for him to be sacked.

Soares, a Socialist and the son of former president and prime minister Mario Soares, is the first minister to leave the new left-leaning government of Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, which took over in November.

Costa issued a public apology on behalf of his cabinet late on Thursday, saying that the episode "does not reflect how the government wants to relate to people" and that he told his ministers "to be reserved and ... never forget that they are government members."

He said on Friday he accepted Soares' resignation.

"I respect his decision and I thank him for his efforts and dedication in his job," Costa told reporters.

After being called "incompetent" and promoting a "work style of cronyism, domineering and rudeness", Soares said it was time to slap two columnists at influential daily newspaper Publico.

"I see that I do have to find him (columnist Augusto Seabra), and now also Vasco Pulido Valente, to give them some sound slapping. It will be good for them. And for me," Soares, 66, wrote on Facebook.

After the columnists, media, hundreds of Facebook users and opposition politicians said his remarks were incompatible with a ministerial job, especially in charge of culture, Soares said he "reacted to insults and not opinions" and said: "I am a peaceful man ... I'm sorry if I scared them."

The apology was again criticised in the media as tongue-in-cheek and oblivious of the seriousness of the situation.

Before the resignation, the main opposition Social Democratic Party attacked the ruling Socialists as a whole, saying Soares represented their "general lack of respect for criticism and freedom of expression".

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International