Portuguese American Journal

January 24: Portuguese to elect next president – Portugal

Portuguese voters will cast their ballots, on January 24, for the country’s next president.

Incumbent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 72, is set to lead the vote, with polls showing he may get over the 50% needed to claim an outright win for a second five-year term.

If the presidential elections were now, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa would be reelected, in the first round, with 68% of the votes, according to the most recent polls.

Also running are candidates Ana Gomes (Partido Socialista/PS), André Ventura (Chega); Tiago Mayan Gonçalves (Initiativa Liberal/IL); Marisa Matias (Bloco Esquerda/BE); João Ferreira (Partido Comunista/PC ); and Vitor Silva (RIR).

Polls predicting victory to the incumbent President, rank Ana Gomes in second place with 13% of votes; André Ventura third place with 8%; João Ferreira and Marisa Matias with 5%;  Tiago Mayan Gonçalves with 1%; and Vitor Silva (n/a).

In 2016, voter turnout was at a low 52% after two weeks of campaigning. Currently, the majority of voters (31%) say they still do not know who they will cast their vote.

Under Portuguese law, a candidate must receive a majority of votes (50% plus one vote) to be elected. If no candidate achieves a majority in the first round, a runoff election is held between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round.

In order to qualify for election, each candidate must gather 7,500 support signatures, one month before the election, and submit them for approval by the Constitutional Court of Portugal. The highest number of candidacies ever accepted was ten in 2016.

Portuguese voters abroad

Portugal was one of the first countries to extend voting rights to her emigrants. The external vote was recognized following the establishment of democracy in 1974, with the election of representatives of the emigrant community in the legislative elections of 1976.

There are an estimated 1.375 million Portuguese nationals residing abroad with a potential right to vote (2017). About 22% of Portuguese nationals live outside the country (2017). In addition, if emigrants’ descendants are factored in, the Portuguese communities abroad would consist of about five million people. 

In spite of requests from the Portuguese communities abroad, the Portuguese Constitution does not allowed voting by mail in the presidential elections. However, Portuguese citizens living abroad, including those of Portuguese descent with dual citizenship, are allowed to vote by mail at the national legislative elections. The next Portuguese legislative election will take place on/or before 8 October 2023.

Voting requires travelling to Portuguese diplomatic representations, which is particularly difficult in large countries, such as the United States, where the network of consular representations is scarce.

Yet, many Portuguese abroad are likely to vote, in person, on January 23 and 24, for the next president, at 171 voting polling locations, in 150 consular services, in more than 70 countries — an increase of 30% in relation to the number of polling stations set up in 2016, which was 121,  — according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The total number of registered voters in the national territory is 9,314,947 and abroad 1,550,063. Portugal population is estimated at 10,196,709 (2020).

About 1.4 million individuals living in the United States today are of Portuguese ancestry, with a large percentage coming from the Azores. Presently, there are sizable communities mostly in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, California, and Hawaii.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was elected President of the Portuguese Republic in the first round of voting on January 24, 2016, earning 52% of the votes cast, replacing Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who served the limit of two five-year terms. A former Law professor, journalist, and political TV commentator, he is the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), governing in cohabitation with the leader of the Socialist Party (PS) Prime Minister António Costa. A former member of the European Parliament, he has been a career politician in and out government since the 1970s. In Portugal, according to the Constitution, the head of state has limited authority, beyond veto power and dissolving the Parliament if a crisis occurs.

UPDATE: Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has tested negative for the coronavirus in results of two consecutive tests disclosed Tuesday, a day after a single positive result, the Associated Press reported.

Carolina Matos/editor@portuguese-american-journal.com/(Updated 17/01/21)

Follow updates @  2021 Portuguese Presidential Election

Read more about  External Vote in Portugal


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