Portugal’s head of State Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won yesterday’s presidential elections hands down, giving a stirring victory speech in which he stated the obvious: “The Portuguese want the pandemic dominated as quickly as possible”; they want “more and better” over the next five years; they want to see European funds coming in “managed transparently and efficiently”; they want more proof that corruption is being tackled – and they want more done to erase poverty.
It’s a huge list, much of it having been relevant and underachieved for years. But the Portuguese people – at least those that bothered to vote – decided without a shadow of doubt that Marcelo is the man they want at the top.
Abstention in this most surreal of years was roughly 60%, which although high was little changed from previous years.
Surprises? These came in the form of the ‘defeat of the left’ (the more radical factions of the left wing polled miserably badly) and the extraordinary popularity of the right.
André Ventura, the man who has upset so many people in such a relatively short space of time, narrowly lost second place to Socialist veteran Ana Gomes. But it was heart-stoppingly narrow. At points in the vote-counting, Ventura was ahead of Ms Gomes. In the end, he was able to claim ‘historic victories’ in the traditionally PCP communist Alentejo, the Peninsula of Setúbal and even in the Algarve.
In terms of this year’s looming municipal elections, the results last night show Ventura’s right wing party Chega is looking like a popular choice – and after the Azores, where PSD ‘snatched’ power from a weak PS ‘victory’ after accepting the support of Chega, Ventura is confident. His message last night was: “PSD, listen well, you won’t get a government in Portugal without Chega…”
As to the rest of the night, yes, Ana Gomes can hold her head high for having trounced Ventura, but it was so narrow: Ms Gomes polled 12.9% of the vote, to Ventura’s 11.9%.
The rest were simply details: João Ferreira for PCP Communists managed 4.32% of the vote, Marisa Matias for Bloco de Esquerda was understandably disappointed with her 3.95% (particularly as she’d polled over 10% in the previous presidential race). Outsiders Tiago Mayan Gonçalves and Vitorino Silva brought up the rear with 3.22% and 2.94% respectively.
For PSD Opposition leader Rui Rio the elections represented a ‘resounding defeat of the PS’ (Ana Gomes was not even officially supported by her party); for the PS they brought back the man prime minister António Costa wants to work with anyway.
At a universal time of Groundhog day, these were in the main fairly typical results – with the frisson of foreboding in the form of the jubilant rise of a party many view as fascist.