Portuguese American Journal

Opinion | Radical right surges in Portugal’s most contested election in 50 years – Len Port

The general early election held on Sunday was Portugal’s most hotly contested legislative election since the Carnation Revolution 50 years ago, a mere six weeks before the country marks the anniversary of the revolution that established democracy.

The outcome has been a slim victory for the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD) over the incumbent center-left Socialist Party (PS). Both main centrist parties will likely jockey with small parties to gain the most seats in parliament, but the novel far-right Chega (CH) finished third place to become a much stronger opposition than ever before.

The close contest awaits results from Portuguese voters abroad. Official results are due within two weeks.

With the counting all but concluded, the polls closed at 7:00 pm on the mainland and an hour later in the Azores archipelago, with the main results: PSD/AD (29.8%); PS (28.7%); and CH (18.2%).

Luis Montenegro Prime Minister-elect

The key players are Luis Montenegro, who will be prime minister as leader of the winning Portuguese Democratic Party (PSD), supported by smaller parties in the Democratic Alliance (AD); Pedro Nuno Santos, of the defeated Socialist Party (PS) who would have succeeded outgoing prime minister António Costa, the incumbent since 2015, who held a strong majority before his resignation last November; and Andre Ventura, a former football pundit, who has successfully led the neo-fascist, far-right Chega (Enough) party, since its foundation five years ago, will be a formidable foe to the centrist PSD/AD and PS that claim he is a xenophobic racist and a demagogue.

A low voter turnout had been expected because of dissatisfaction with politicians in general, but it was higher than the 45% registered for the last election in 2022.

The much respected former Prime Minister António Costa appealed that it was fundamental that everyone voted, while President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa urged all eligible citizens to vote. By noon on Sunday, four hours after the polling stations opened, a quarter of the electorate had done so. As early as 4:00 pm, well over 50% of voters had already been to the ballot boxes.

The main challenges facing the new PSD/AD government include low wages, inflation and cost of living, the deterioration in the national health system, the housing shortage, and widespread corruption. It was an influence-peddling corruption probe that brought down the Socialist government last November and obliged President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to dissolve parliament and call for early general elections over a corruption investigation.

While plenty of problems are facing the new administration, Portugal will remain one of the most peaceful countries in the world, although probably the poorest in Europe amid the current global financial crisis.

The outcome of Portugal’s latest election will be viewed with considerable interest within the European Union, which is to hold its own parliamentary election in June. The current EU parliament will be hoping for a majority of moderate candidates, but recently there have been many shifts to far-right populist parties similar to Chega.

*This developing story is being updated in real-time here

Len Port, born in Northern Ireland, worked as a news reporter and correspondent, mainly in Hong Kong and South Africa, before moving to Portugal many years ago.


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