13th Aug 2022

Portuguese voters back the right

  • PSD leader Coelho is tipped to become Portugal's next Prime Minister (Photo: PSD)

The centre-right's march across Europe in the wake of the crisis advanced still further afield on Sunday, with Portuguese voters pushing aside the governing Socialists in favour of their conservative rivals, the Social Democrats.

Garnering 105 seats to the centre-left's estimated 73 in the 230-seat national parliament, the PSD - right-wing despite its name - was in position to lead a new government in partnership with the People's Party (CDS-PP), a second conservative political outfit.

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The PSD share of the vote amounted to 38.6 percent to the Socialists of Prime Minister Jose Socrates' 28.1. The People's Party achieved an estimated 11.7.

PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho, whose party had yanked its support for the minority Social Democrats in April over its opposition to the government's austerity measures, triggering the snap election, immediately moved to assure markets that it will continue to back a €78 billion EU-IMF bail-out programme and its attendant austerity.

"We will do everything possible to honor the agreement established between the Portuguese state, the EU and the IMF to regain the confidence of markets," he said.

In the middle of the election, the troika of the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank had demanded that the major parties sign up to the bail-out architecture, ensuring that nothing would change were the government to switch political colours.

Perhaps as a result, the biggest winner of the night was the party of abstention: the percentage of those who did not vote climbed slightly on the last election to 41.1 percent.

The only two parties, both to the left of the Social Democrats, to openly oppose the bail-out and austerity saw mixed results.

The alliance of the country's Communists and Green Party, the CDU, saw a slight increase on the last election, from 7.89 to 7.9 percent, giving it 16 seats, while voters drifted away from the Left Bloc, down to 5.2 percent from its previous 9.85, giving it eight.

Another four seats set aside for expatriate voters, have yet to be apportioned.

Apart from a brief spell under the PSD then led by Jose Manuel Barroso, now the president of the European Commission, and his successor, Pedro Santana Lopes, from 2002-05, the Socialists have been in power since 1995.

The loss of Portugal represents yet another blow to European social democracy. With the right leading governments in all but Greece, Spain, Austria, Slovenia and Cyprus, the once mighty European ideology is at its lowest electoral ebb since its formation in the late 19th century.

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