7.6 C
London
Thursday, September 29, 2022

Portugal general election: Socialists win surprise outright majority | Portugal

Defying all odds, Portugal’s ruling centre-left Socialists won an outright parliamentary majority in Sunday’s snap general election, securing a strong new mandate for the prime minister, Antonio Costa.

The result, boosted by a higher than expected turnout despite the coronavirus pandemic, came as a surprise after the Socialists had lost most of their advantage in recent opinion polls. It means Portugal will have a stable government to oversee the application of EU pandemic recovery funds.

Costa said in his victory speech early on Monday: “An absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power. It doesn’t mean to govern alone. It’s an increased responsibility and it means to govern with and for all Portuguese.”

Just after 1am in Lisbon, the Socialists were confirmed as winning 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, up from 108 won in the 2019 election. Earlier, when Costa said the party had won 117 or 118 seats, his supporters erupted in loud celebrations, singing the old revolutionary anthem “Grandola” and waving flags.

After last week’s opinion polls Costa himself acknowledged that Portuguese did not want to give him a full majority and said he was prepared to strike alliances with like-minded parties, which is now no longer necessary.

Portuguese prime minister and leader of the Socialist party (PS) Antonio Costa waves as he addresses the nation after winning the general election.
Portuguese prime minister and leader of the Socialist party (PS) Antonio Costa waves as he addresses the nation after winning the general election. Photograph: Pedro Fiúza/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Sunday’s election was triggered in December after the long-running deal between Costa’s minority government and its allies in the Portuguese Communist party and the Left Bloc broke down during negotiations over the 2022 budget.

The unlikely alliance – known as the geringonça, or improvised solution – finally collapsed when the Communists and Left Bloc joined rightwing parties in rejecting the budget bill after weeks of tense negotiations.

Costa, who has served as prime minister since 2015, had accused his erstwhile geringonça partners of behaving irresponsibly by voting against his budget.

Despite the seemingly unstable nature of his minority government, Costa has won plaudits for turning around Portugal’s post-crisis economy, reversing unpopular austerity measures and overseeing one of the most successful Covid vaccination programmes in Europe.

“Everyone is realising how important this election is, and how important it is that there’s a solid victory that will give the country stability and generate the consensus and national unity that is fundamental for us to turn the page on this pandemic,” Costa told a rally in Porto on Friday.

Recent polls had suggested that the PSD were creeping ahead of the Socialists and that the race would be a narrow one.

Economist Filipe Garcia, the head of consultants Informacao de Mercados Financeiros in Porto, said investors were likely to appreciate Costa’s new strong mandate, given the government’s record cutting of the budget deficit.

“Furthermore, the Socialists will not need to compromise [with other parties], which guarantees stability and a clear line of action. The biggest challenge will be to promote potential growth,” he said.

The centre-right Social Democrats came a distant second at below 30% of the vote, according to provisional results, against the Socialists’ tally of around 42%.

The far-right Chega emerged as the third-largest parliamentary force, making a big leap from just one seat in the previous legislature to at least 11.

A stable government would bode well for Portugal’s access to a €16.6bn ($18.7bn) package of EU pandemic recovery aid and its success in channelling funds into projects to boost economic growth.

With more than a tenth of Portugal’s 10 million people estimated to be isolating because of Covid-19, the government had allowed infected people to leave isolation and cast ballots in person, and electoral officials wore protection suits in the afternoon to receive them.

Turnout was on track to beat 2019’s record low participation of 49%.

As in many European countries, infections have spiked, although vaccination has kept deaths and hospitalisations lower than in earlier waves.

With Reuters

Latest news

Related news