Jerómino de Sousa returns, for a walkabout in Baixa de Banheira (Setúbal district)

Jerónimo back in saddle as polls do ‘loop-the-loop’

Wednesday sees the race towards legislative elections on January 30 with only two more ‘campaign days’ to go – and news today is that PCP leader and ‘communist figurehead’ Jerónimo de Sousa is back in the saddle, following emergency surgery two weeks ago, while the two main parties appear to be more at each other’s throats than ever.

Newspapers have been remarking on the extraordinary sea-change in popular perception. Prime minister António Costa started the campaign extolling the importance (and bonuses) of an absolute majority; then conceded that dialogue with other parties was “important”, and finally over the weekend intimated that he was prepared to speak with ‘everyone except Chega’ (the most right wing of all the choices).

A cartoon in tabloid Correio da Manhã today shows the apparent results of  Mr Costa’s strategy: ten days ago, polls put the PS comfortably ahead; five days ago, when he began conceding he was open to dialogue, the polls turned slightly sour, and over the weekend, they plummeted even further.

Yesterday, an Aximage poll actually put centre-right PSD in the lead, with 34.4% of the votes compared to the Socialists’ 33.8%.

But polls are, in the end, just polls, hence the almost rabid fervour now by both leaders of the two main parties to ‘keep up the pressure’ without too many clangers.

PSD’s Rui Rio has accused Mr Costa throughout the campaign for trying to twist his words and make the party look bad, but the truth is Mr Costa has had an odd choice of words at various junctures.

Trying to make the point that his party was not simply there for the time of ‘vacas gordas’ (fat cows), he managed to allude to the electorate as ‘cattle’.

In a speech that seemed to carry him a little too far, he insisted “it’s not simply in the time of fat cows” that he/ his party was among the people, “but in other moments” too, when one has to “treat the cattle well, feed the cattle, care for the cattle, so that the cattle gets fat”.

As Expresso remarked: “the creativity of politicians is a danger”.

Mr Rio’s pithy reflection that Mr Costa has lost a number of opportunities “where he could have remained silent” definitely rang true in the ‘fat cow’ thematic, which is around the time the PS polls took their steepest dive.

But, the show remains on stage and rolling round the country until Friday evening,

Saturday is the moment for ‘the people’ (possibly even the cattle) to reflect, and then Sunday is ‘the day’ for a two-legged race to the urns.

With very little time to get himself about, the PCP leader returned to the fray by lambasting both Mr Rio and Mr Costa for their potential ‘approximations’, accusing the latter of “opening the door to the right”, something the PCP could never countenance.

PCP hopes, shared by Bloco de Esquerda, are that results coming through on Sunday night will see the PS returned, if only by a whisker, so that the former ‘geringonça’ alliance of left-wingers can be resurrected.

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