In a 10-minute address to the nation this evening, president Marcelo set Sunday January 30 for the date the country will be going to polls to elect a new government.
For the second time in just a few months, Portugal will be plunged back into an election campaign.
This time, Marcelo had to bear in mind Christmas and the New Year – in spite of the urgency to return the political situation to a better footing.
The various parties, in the main, suggested January 16 as the best date for them (click here), but Marcelo decided the 30th gives the necessary space from the festive season.
Explaining why he felt there was no alternative but elections in this ‘especially important moment for all of us’, he said rejection of the budget just over a week ago was too deep-rooted to plump for the option of a second attempt.
“The rejection left the government’s party alone… it completely divided its support base, maintained since 2015. It was not a passing rejection, due to circumstances, it was fundamental” – and therefore a moment where it was up to the people to decide ‘what next’.
The weeks ahead will be messy. The centre-right parties – the ‘traditional’ choices for citizens who don’t vote Socialist – are fighting over who should lead them, and nothing at this point is clear.
Pundits predict this is a moment in Portugal’s political history when new ‘alternatives’ on the scene could gain ground: particularly right-wing Chega, and right-leaning Iniciativa Liberal. Both parties have everything to gain from the disunity of the centre-right – while PS Socialists will be intent on ensuring nothing like this has a chance. Prime minister António Costa wants a ‘reinforced majority’ – and much like the campaign he ran for the municipal elections, he will be pulling out all the stops to get it.