VETERAN SOCIALIST (PS) politician Manuel Alegre has announced he will run in January’s presidential election, a move that is challenging his party and further dividing Portugal’s left-of-centre electorate.
Alegre announced his decision last Saturday, hoping to defeat the centre-right’s (PSD) presumed candidate, former Prime Minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva.
Prime Minister José Sócrates dismissed the significance of the rift within his Socialist ranks, saying both the left and centre-left would vote for the party’s candidate, former President of the Republic Mário Soares, who, at the age of 80, is seeking a third term as head of state.
In announcing his bid, Alegre said his candidacy was not aimed to divide the party, but add votes on the left and force a run off election.
Opinion polls have consistently shown Cavaco Silva, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy, would win the presidential race. Opposition centre-right parties appear united around Cavaco Silva’s expected bid.
In contrast, the left is divided among Soares, Alegre and the leaders of the Communist and Left Bloc parties, Jerónimo de Sousa and Francisco Louçã respectively, who have also announced they will run.
Analysts said Alegre, a longtime friend and ally of Soares, was shocked and bemused that the former President had abandoned political retirement to run, despite Alegre’s prior announcement that he was considering a presidential bid.