PS popularity takes ‘absolute dive’ as PSD leadership contest starts getting ugly

The PS government’s failure to get a grip of forest fires this year before they killed over 100 nationals and devastated more than 500,000 hectares of land has seen a poll emerge showing the party has lost its chances of attaining an absolute majority in any upcoming legislative election.

Whether that will change before elections are called is another matter. But for now, the poll conducted by Correio da Manhã in collaboration with communications and image company Aximage shows the government has lost the ground it gained last year and could not scoop a working majority.

The only ‘good news’ is that the government would still win. It would need buoying up again, however, by its left-wing allies – who have also suffered ‘slight losses in popularity’.

Who has won from the national distrust of the nation’s powermakers is the PSD, though not massively.

“Light gains” (0.9% of voting intentions) were registered in the poll taken the same month that the centre-right party is limbering up for a leadership contest.

The only two contenders this far are former fleeting prime minister Pedro Santana Lopes (who stepped into Durão Barroso’s shoes when the latter left Portuguese politics to take up the presidency of the European Commission) and former mayor of Porto Rui Rio.

The duo know each other well, and have worked together in the past within the PSD. But now it’s a fight to the top job – to be decided by the party in January 2018.

Ahead of this date, Santana Lopes has suggested a roadshow of 20 debates which Rio today has refused, saying he doesn’t want the contest turned into a circus, particularly three months before voting is due to take place.

Talking to Lusa he stressed that “20 debates are not needed in order for the truth to be restored”, referring to “lies and half truths” about him that his adversary has been allegedly propounding.

For political-watchers, this will be an interesting fight – but as Rio infers, it’s too early to get excited about it.

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