Absolute majority! Portugal votes in four more years of Socialism

PS Socialists – particularly their leader prime minister António Costa – received the best election results they could have hoped for last night, taking the party into ‘historic’ new territory.

This is the first time the PS has won an absolute majority after six years in power.

No other Socialist leader has managed a ‘vote of confidence’ like this after so many years already at the helm.

Pundits suggested before last night’s results that the government was tired; the PM showing signs of wear – but these considerations were bulldozed as early as an hour after the polling stations closed.

Now, it is the moment for ‘carrying on with running the country’ as the numerous losers (see below) weigh up their options, and the ‘other winners of the night’ formulate strategies.

Within hours of the victory being declared, INE confirmed Portugal’s economy grew by 4.9% in 2021 – the highest volume of growth since 1990 – and the government had prolonged its tax reduction (ISP) on fuel for another three months.

Today sees a ‘pause’ in the political hurly-burly; tomorrow President Marcelo ‘meets all the parties with representation in parliament’ and from then, for the PS government at least, it’s very much an open road with very few traffic restrictions.

Columnist Luciano Amaral stresses today that “when people think elections are really important, they vote”. But, he warned, the last time the PS had an absolute majority was with José Sócrates – and that administration was marked by ‘corruption and authoritarianism’. 

“Vigilance will be fundamental”, he says – and to this end the PS has… CHEGA.

CHEGA the second great winner of the night

Right-wing party Chega was the second great winner of the night, with leader André Ventura securing no less than 12 MPs in parliament. Three years ago the party managed only one.

“António Costa, I am coming after you!” André Ventura thundered as his supporters could barely contain their delight with the results. “If the PSD hasn’t done its job, we will – and we will be the opposition in Portugal!

“It won’t be that cuddly opposition”, either, he warned. “Everything will be different in parliament… there will be (a party) telling the truth… a very strong parliamentary group”.

PSD subdued: loses three MPs, securing only 29.27% of vote

Rui Rio’s dreams of snatching this election from his adversary turned to dust with the exit polls. The centre-right leader conceded defeat shortly before midnight, accepting that there may be no use for him in opposition against an absolute majority.

“We did not get anywhere near reaching our objectives”, he admitted – reacting to journalists continued questions on whether or not he would resign by resorting to answering in German.

It was a party trick that he has used before which went down like a lead balloon the first time.

The PSD remains the second political force in the country – having taken five of the 20 ‘electoral circles’. But in terms of MPs, the party has actually lost three. There is very little to hold onto in terms of ‘positives’.

IL delighted with coming in 4th

Iniciativa Liberal is perhaps the only other party that could take any real delight from last night’s results. It increased its number of MPs from one to eight, and took almost 5% of the votes.

LIVRE too was ‘vindicated’ in that it saw Rui Tavares voted in in Lisbon, promising to be an MP that remains true to the party (the first MP, voted in in 2019, quickly turned her back on Livre and went her own way).

But the rest of the night saw candidates licking their wounds: PAN failed to re-elect three of its four representatives – and obviously failed in its message to the electorate at large; CDS was annihilated – losing all five MPs, as well as its leader Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos; Bloco de Esquerda dropped like a stone – losing 14 of its 19 MPs, and CDU (including PCP communists and PEV) was ‘cut in half’, losing six of its 12 representatives on the parliamentary bench.

Expresso’s columnist Carla Ferreira Alves looks ahead at what is to come and wonders whether António Costa will be “the reformer of an addicted, stagnant system”, or “will he just distribute to friends and clients” in a way so familiar with PS Socialism.

There is a lot of money at stake this time (with all the billions of post-pandemic aid coming from Brussels). What will happen to this country of “low salaries, low productivity, conformism and penury”, she queries.

“They will be four years of test. If the PS fails, the right will come – and it won’t be the nice, centrist right that we are used to. Look at the victory of Chega and take conclusions. The PSD needs, absolutely, to reconstruct itself. Or it will die”.

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