efe-epaLisbon

Joacine Katar Moreira, an activist, academic and politician, has become the first black woman to lead a party into elections in Portugal and has etched her slot in history by securing a historic seat in parliament.

"I stutter when I speak, not when I think. The danger in parliament is individuals who stutter when they think," Katar Moreira told Efe in an interview.

"I have a stutter that continues to insist on speaking before me," Katar Moreira said with a sideways smile.

The feminist with a PhD in African Studies is still recovering from an especially tough electoral process which has made her an exciting and new face in the Portuguese Parliament.

Born 37 years ago in Guinea Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, she arrived at age eight to the country.

Before becoming a politician with the left-leaning Livre (Free) party, she was an activist and instrumental in the creation of the Black Women Insitute in Portugal (INMUNE).

In the last month, she has been forced to develop a thick skin as many have attacked her stutter throughout the electoral campaign.

The media took an interest in her as soon as she announced she would lead the Free party, created in 2014, into the elections.

Her colourful turbans, chunky jewellery and unorthodox attire stood out in a sea of grey suits.

And of course, there was also the stuttering.

"It is a stutter that is very evident and that it is even quite spectacular, so it is absolutely impossible for someone to listen to me and pretend that I am not stuttering," Katar Moreira said.

Katar Moreira's voice, much like her physical presence, became a magnet for fake news with some saying she was exaggerating her stutter for electoral purposes.

"As if stuttering had ever made someone's life easier," she mused.

But she knew exactly how to address the issue in a television interview that marked a turning point in the campaign.

When asked if it would be an obstacle for her in parliamentary interventions, she replied with the now infamous sentence explaining that she does not stutter when she thinks and that the danger arises when MPs get stuck when thinking.

The interview put the issue firmly to bed and her environmentalist, feminist and pro-European policies made themselves heard.

"Right now I know exactly that this enormous fuss over my stuttering is a way for many to not talk about what is really obvious: I am a black woman."

"But it is not socially acceptable to attack me for my racial heritage," she added.

And if that was indeed the intention of her critics, it has not worked.

The Livre party's campaign propaganda celebrated Portugal's diversity and that, paired with Katar Moreira's charming and infectious no-nonsense attitude, seduced voters ensuring she took 55,660 votes last Sunday.

Her election is historic both for the Livre party and for black Portuguese women.

Katar Moreira has pledged to change the landscape of the left, currently represented by four parties with seats in the Portuguese parliament, in addition to the centre-left ruling Socialist Party.

"The enormous innovation of my party is that it means an ecological left-wing suit is in the Assembly," she told Efe.

Her party, she added, was also the first one to be openly "Europeanist" in a climate of euro-scepticism, and anti-racist, which Katar Moreira considers a pending conversation to be had in Portugal.

"It is necessary to emphasize this."

"There was a huge and important anti-fascist rhetoric before, but the anti-fascism that characterises leftist parties does not necessarily amount to a vision, an action, an anti-racist narrative," she says.

Katar Moreira is still savouring Sunday's victory but she says there will be no "utopias" in parliament, instead, it will be filled with the plans that have been in development for months alongside experts.

An example of these policies is raising the minimum wage from 600 euros to 900, which is 50 euros more than what the communists and greens put forward.

Katar Moreira was quick to point out that the support Communists and the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) gave to the Socialists to govern as a minority in the past legislature, was lacking in ambition.

"If these last four years were fundamental for the stabilisation of the national economy and for the payment of the debt, with regard to social justice, for workers and housing the last four years that do not feel like they have been ruled by a left-wing party propped up by others (also from the left)," she concluded. EFE-EPA

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