Rui Rio seems determined to lead his party into the January elections, in spite of a fairly lacklustre record in opposition

Centre-right leader uses pandemic to try to delay Portugal’s municipal elections 

PSD leader Rui Rio has embarked on a strategy to try and delay municipal elections by 60 days.

The pretext is that it will be nigh impossible to carry out an election campaign without herd immunity in place.

Despite the fact that the government insists 70% of the population will have been vaccinated by the end of August (well in time for an election campaign ahead of municipal elections between September 22 and October 14), Mr Rio says he is “very sceptical” that this will in fact be the case.

And even if it is, “and the government sets the elections for September 20-something, it means the election campaign could only run for about 20 days”, which “seems to me manifestly short for an election campaign”.

Mr Rio’s arguments are being seen as purely political. The PSD is desperate to try and win back some of the terrible losses the party suffered in the last municipal elections (click here) – and clearly the longer it has to ‘connect to the people in the street’, the better the chances will be.

Mr Rio has gone as far to suggest ‘democracy’ will be put at risk if the elections are not delayed – as this would benefit ‘those who are already in power’

But really this is all part of a relatively transparent chess game. 

Says Expresso, the PSD is playing for time, hoping that the government’s handling of the pandemic/ the economic and social ‘catastrophe’ enveloping Portugal becomes so acute as to see voters change their voting intentions.

Secretly, party leaders know Mr Rio’s bid will be rejected. But “it will be used by the social democrats to dramatise the process” and “to help dilute eventual election defeats”.

The municipal elections in Portugal are the only elections in which expat residents are able to vote. Indeed, some even taken part, running as representatives for their local parishes.

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