Absolute majority

news: Absolute majority

JOSÉ SÓCRATES, Socialist Party (PS) leader, won a historic absolute majority in last Sunday’s election. The result confirmed poll findings and, in the eyes of some commentators, vindicated President Sampaio’s controversial decision to call early elections. The PS won 45 per cent of the vote – 16 points above the Social Democrats (PSD) – representing their best ever result. It was also the first time that an opposition party in Portugal had won an overall majority in an election. The last party to obtain an overall majority was the PSD in 1991, under the leadership of Cavaco Silva, achieved while the party was already in power. The final tally gave the Socialists 120 seats, giving them an absolute majority in the 230-seat parliament for the first time. The PS’s share of the vote was eight per cent up on 2002, earning 25 more deputies in parliament. The PSD lost more than 400,000 votes, achieving only 72 deputies, 30 less than in 2002, in a poll that saw a high turnout (65 per cent). The result was a devastating blow for PSD leader, Pedro Santana Lopes, who saw his party’s share of the vote fall by 10 per cent relative to Durão Barroso’s performance three years ago. Former PSD leader and television pundit, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, immediately called for Santana Lopes’ resignation, an opinion seconded by Miguel Veiga, founder of the From page 1

PPD-PSD. But Santana Lopes didn’t offer his resignation immediately. He assumed personal responsibility for the defeat, but called for a special party congress to discuss the leadership and future of the PSD.

Portas announces resignation

The other big election loser was the PSD’s right-wing coalition partner, the CDS-PP, whose share of the vote (at just 7.3 per cent) fell well short of its 10 per cent target. The party lost 60,660 votes, polling only 414,855 votes, and lost two deputies in the process. Paulo Portas, whose party was beaten by the Communists, immediately announced his resignation as party leader. He conceded that the result was “the worst ever for the centre-right”, a reference to the fact that the two coalition parties polled only 36 per cent of the vote.

Far-left parties were also winners

The Bloco de Esquerda, under the leadership of Francisco Louçã, more than doubled its vote and the Communist Party finished in third place, reversing what some thought was an inevitable historical decline. Party leader, Jerónimo de Sousa, said he was “very happy” with his party’s performance, but said he regretted the overall majority for the Socialists, saying it would have been “better” if it had not happened.

Indeed, both left-wing parties probably regret the outright PS win since it will deprive them of crucial leverage in the new parliament.

Portugal’s new Prime Minister, 47-year-old José Sócrates, pledged to govern for the whole country. “The fact that so many Portuguese voted in this election, together with the size of the victory they have handed us, proves that this is a majority to build a new alternative for Portugal,” he said.

Sócrates added that the election result dispelled what he called “an old myth”, namely that only the centre-right could obtain an overall majority.