ALL POLLS indicate that the Socialist Party (PS) is on course for an overall majority in this Sunday’s election and José Sócrates will be the new occupant of São Bento.
The latest survey gives the PS 44.7 per cent of the votes against 27.4 per cent for the ruling Social Democrats Party (PSD), a lead of more than 17 points and one sufficient to give the PS an overall majority. But Sócrates has insisted he would not “sulk” if he fails to win outright: “We must prepare for everything, whether it be losing, winning outright or winning in other circumstances.”
The same poll, for Correio da Manhã/Aximage, showed a drop in undecided voters and abstentions and a fall in support for the PSD’s right-wing coalition partner, the CDS-PP, who described themselves last week as “the true revolutionaries of the 21st century”. Most respondents (61.3 per cent) also said that they disapproved of the Church’s recent public opposition to those political parties advocating abortion and euthanasia.
PSD leader attacks press
and Sócrates deals with
Santana Lopes, leader of the PSD, spent the last Sunday of the campaign in Viana do Castelo, Guimarães and Cabeceiras de Basto, while Sócrates spent the day in Porto. Earlier in the week, Santana Lopes had renewed his attacks on the press for their alleged bias against him. He said that Sócrates was “not ready for government” and promised that, if elected, the PSD would only make “good decisions”. He also reacted angrily to jibes that he had avoided street campaigning and compared himself to former President Mário Soares, a politician known for his populist touch.
Sócrates’ week was dogged by allegations that he had awarded the Freeport Designer Outlet in Alcochete a special licence when he was Environment Minister, even though it occupied an area known as a Special Protection Zone on the River Tejo’s estuary.
The occasionally acrimonious election campaign has concealed a broad consensus on policy. Both main parties, the PS and the PSD, have pledged to revitalise the country through “technology shock” and “management shock” respectively.
‘150,000 new jobs’ with Sócrates
Sócrates has succeeded in positioning himself as a centre-left Blairite, a watered down ‘socialist’ committed to market economics. He opposed tax cuts and promised to create 150,000 jobs during his first term, but has said he would not
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repeal the government’s Work Code. He has also pledged to reduce over-manning in the public sector staff by substituting two retiring public sector workers with just one replacement.
There are other differences, but they are unconnected to the broad thrust of economic policy. Sócrates says he would cancel plans to introduce tolls on the Algarve’s Via do Infante motorway and the private management of state-run hospitals, a commitment backed by the Bloco de Esquerda and the Communist Party. Sócrates wants to see the revision of the public-private partnerships model and more health sector professionals staying in the public sector.
Lopes wants to boost
social security budget
The PSD, on the other hand, wants to bring another nine hospitals into the public-private partnership, has promised tax cuts (if budgetary constraints allow) and has promised to cut spending in the state sub-sector from 15 per cent of GDP to 11 per cent. Santana Lopes has favoured increasing the age of retirement to 68 in a bid to boost the social security budget and has appeared as a social conservative, opposing gay marriages and abortion.
At the time of going to press, the nation was preparing to watch all five party leaders debate on television. A strong performance from Santana Lopes may help him in Sunday’s election, but the Socialist lead looks increasingly unassailable. Gabriel Hershman