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Portugal shifts to the right after eight years of socialist government

Photo: Miguel Riopa Agence France-Presse According to the RTP projection, the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD), led by Luis Montenegro (above), would have won Sunday's elections, but would not be able to form a majority on its own.

Thomas Cabral – Agence France-Presse in Lisbon

March 10, 2024

  • Europe

The center-right opposition narrowly won Sunday's legislative elections in Portugal and, after eight years of socialist government, the Iberian country's Parliament is shifting to the right with a new push by populists, according to a projection exit from the polls broadcast by public television RTP.

Three months before the European elections, this election precipitated by the resignation of outgoing Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who was not seeking a new mandate, confirms that the extreme right is progressing across the Old Continent, as had been shown by Italian voters or Dutch.

Portugal was one of the few countries in Europe to be ruled by the left when Mr Costa, 62, threw in the towel after being named in an influence peddling investigation early in the month of November.

According to the RTP projection, the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD) led by Luis Montenegro, 51, would have won Sunday's elections with 29 to 33 percent of the vote, but would fall short to form a majority on its own.

Mr. Montenegro, a long-time deputy and then head of the parliamentary group when his party was in power (2011-2015), pledged during the campaign not to form a government with the support of the far right.

He hoped to rely on the small Liberal Initiative party, credited with 5 to 7% of the vote, but, still according to this exit poll, the two parties will not reach the threshold together of 116 deputies out of 230 seats, synonymous with an absolute majority.

The Socialist Party (PS), which had obtained an absolute majority during the previous legislative elections in January 2022 with a score of 41.4%, would now come in second position with 25 to 29% of the votes.

After the departure of Mr. Costa, the PS regrouped around Pedro Nuno Santos, a 46-year-old former minister from its left wing.

On the winning side of this election, the far-right Chega (Enough) party would have clearly strengthened its position as the third political force in the country, winning 14 to 17% of the vote.

This result is in line with pre-election surveys and represents more than double the score of 7.2% reached two years ago.

The anti-system training, driven by a discourse against corruption, immigration and minorities, was created in 2019 by André Ventura, a 41-year-old law professor who became known as as a polemicist on television sets devoted to football.

The leader of the Portuguese far right welcomed “an absolutely historic result” in his party’s legislative elections on Sunday.

Mr. Ventura said he was “available” to “give a stable government to Portugal” within “a strong majority on the right”.

This new push from the far right comes as Portugal next month commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, which ended the fascist dictatorship and 13 years of colonial wars.

Beyond the suspicions of corruption which caused the resignation of Antonio Costa, Mr. Ventura also insisted during the campaign on the increase in immigration to this country, which saw its foreign population double in the space of five years.

“With all the social, demographic and economic changes, the Portuguese feel that they must vote and that they have a say in political choices,” he said on Sunday, saying expect a strong turnout.

The abstention rate, estimated between 32 and 38% by the RTP projection, would be the lowest since 2005.

Despite the consolidation of public finances, growth above the European average and unemployment at its lowest, the record of the outgoing socialist government was tarnished by inflation, dysfunctions in hospitals and schools, then by a major crisis housing.

During the campaign, center-right opposition leader Luis Montenegro promised to cut taxes to boost growth, while saying he wanted to improve public services.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116