The Portuguese are called this Sunday to go to the polls in some early legislative elections after Parliament knocked down the 2022 budgets of Prime Minister António Costa.
In elections marked by the omicron variant, they are at stake 230 seats in the Portuguese Parliament. Some of the latest polls show a technical tie between the main formationsthe Socialist Party of Costa and the PSD Social Democratic Party of Rui Rio. None of them would obtain an absolute majority, which would force new government pacts.
What is voted?
More of 10.8 million Portugueseboth from outside and within the national territory and foreigners with political equality status over 18 years of age, are called to vote this Sunday in the Parliamentary election From Portugal.
Voters will elect 230 deputies, who in turn will choose who will be the next Portuguese prime minister, who must form a new government. According to surveys, there is between a 15 and 20% undecided and it is expected a high abstentionwhich in the last three elections has been between 45% and 60%.
The omicron variant has forced a change in the dynamics of the electoral process and, in these elections, boosted early voting, which has allowed citizens to cast their ballots a week earlier. In the 2019 elections, this option was already used, although it had little success. Only 50,000 Portuguese cast their vote in advance.
However, on January 23, more than 300,000 voters availed themselves of this formula, including the current prime minister and socialist candidate, António Costa. During this day, the country registered a high participation with attendance figures over 85% in cities like Lisbon and Porto, two of the decisive electoral districts.
Also, this Sunday, around 700,000 confined voters because of the coronavirus they will be able to go to the polling stations to deposit their ballots at the last minute –between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.-, a vote that will be decisive.
Why have the elections been brought forward?
The alliance between socialists, the Left Bloc and communists that in 2015 brought António Costa to the Government, known as “geringonça”, ended after the 2019 elections. With a simple majority, the socialist moved away from the left to rule alone.
Halfway through his term, on October 27, 2021, Costa failed to carry out the 2022 budgets due to disagreement on the measures for salary, VAT in light or the fight against poverty. The Communist Party joined the Left Bloc in voting against the bill, instead of abstaining as it did in the previous two years.
The Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, called early elections, although he waited for the deadline to allow time for Parliament to process pending legislative initiatives, such as anti-corruption measures and the euthanasia law, which he ended up vetoing.
It’s about the first time that the Portuguese Parliament lays down a budget since democracy was restored in the country in 1974. Since then, Portugal has held 15 legislative elections, of which seven have been advanced.
Who are the candidates and what do they propose?
As in the legislative elections of 2019, this time there are up to 21 gamesbut only two candidates have chances of forming a government and become prime minister: Antonio Costa and Rui Rio.
Costa, from the Socialist Party, aspires to revalidate his triumph in the legislative elections and become the Portuguese prime minister who he has been in charge of the government the longest since the Carnation Revolution. In his campaign he has pledged to reduce your executive -which currently has 19 ministries and 50 secretariats of state-, as well as raise wages and regionalize the country, among other matters. The current prime minister has opened the door to dialogue and the pacts with the left.
As the main leader of the opposition, Rui Rio, from the PSD Social Democratic Partyfrom the centre-right, has based his campaign on recovering the center and interior of Portugal and has shown open to agree. Rio voted in favor of the decriminalization of abortion in the referendum carried out in 2007 and advocates for a party that serves the interests of citizens on the street.
From left blockthe third party in the country with 19 seats, Catarina Martins is committed to setting goals with the Costa Socialist Party, whom she has invited to meet the day after the election. Meanwhile, the candidate for Portuguese Communist PartyJerónimo de Sousa, has missed the electoral campaign due to an operation and has highlighted that his formation will be present in future agreements.
Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos is the CDS-PP candidatean alliance of conservative parties, which in the legislative elections of 2019 did not win a seat in Parliament, and who has shown willing to support a PSD government.
Among the main legislative candidates is André Ventura, leader of the extreme right Chega party! (Enough!, in Portuguese), which in the past elections won a seat. Ventura, a well-known sports commentator on Portuguese television, began his political life with the conservative PSD, but in 2019 he founded the current PSD force.
What do the polls say?
Surveys predict a complex political scenario in Portugalsince none of the main parties will achieve absolute majority. According to an Aximage survey published on January 25, the PSD of Rui Rio, with 34.4% of the voteswould slightly surpass the Socialist Party of António Costa, with 33.8% support.
This technical tie would force to carry out pacts on the left or on the right to rule The right-wing formations would add 46.8% of the votes, half a point more than the total of the left-wing parties.
In this sense, abstention -which was higher than 45% in the 2019 elections- and the level of undecided votes -which is expected to be 20%-, will be decisive in these legislative elections.
When will it be known who will be the prime minister?
If the polls are correct, the winner of these elections will be forced to agree with other parties, since they do not predict that there will be an option for an absolute majority. António Costa, who opted for an absolute majority, now opens the doors to agree with the formations of the left and return to the “lowonca”.
The PSD is also weighing the idea of forming alliances, but if neither the right nor the left reaches the figures, it opens the Central Block road, a pact between the PS of Costa and the PSD of Rio. It would not be the first time that this formula has been tried in Portugal, since in 1983 the socialist Mário Soares ended up allying himself with the center-right party. However, Costa and Rio agree on one thing: dodge the Center Block.
In this sense, if finally no candidate obtains an absolute majority, the name of the next Prime Minister of Portugal will only be known when the agreements start to be negotiated between matches.