The capital’s voting took place at the Cidade Universitária Photo: RODRIGO ANTUNES/LUSA

Shambolic control as quarter of a million Portuguese cast early votes for presidential elections

Sunday January 17 saw Portugal’s organisational ability at its worst. Almost a quarter of a million citizens turned out in various parts of the country to cast their early votes for the presidential elections. The result was long queues, major confusion, and hours where people wondered what authorities had been thinking.

The whole idea of the exercise had been to ensure voters were kept safe from the possibility of contagion.

Instead, there were countless situations where the likelihood of contagion was ever-present.

Yes, people attempted to maintain physical distancing – but in Lisbon where more than 33,000 rallied to the cause it was a constant challenge to keep it up.

Queues in Lisbon stretched back as many as two kilometers, say reports, and saw people from ‘many different areas’ brought together.

The capital’s voting took place at the Cidade Universitária and saw citizens converging from Setúbal, Leiria, Madeira, the Azores – even Faro, writes Correio da Manhã.

Nothing like this will be possible on the ‘official voting day’ next Sunday (January 24), as then people will have to cast their votes in their borough of residence.

But beyond the unexpected numbers is the question ‘why have so many people opted to vote early?’ The pandemic, with all its restrictions, has seen media commentators suggest this will be the least-participated presidential elections of recent times. Yet yesterday’s turn-out was described as ‘record breaking’: four times the number of people than those who opted to vote early in the parliamentary elections of 2019.

As one young man in the crowds told Expresso, although he was surprised to see so many people, it was a good sign “because the future of the country is at stake”.

Next Sunday’s elections are the 10th presidential elections to have been held since Portugal became a democracy. The various candidates (see below) are touring the country, giving their messages but it is widely expected that President Marcelo will be returned to serve a second mandate in the first ballot.

List of candidates:

  • Marisa Matias (supported by Bloco de Esquerda and actually running a second time for the presidential elections)
  • Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (officially supported by PSD and CDS/PP, though ‘unofficially’ he has the full support of the country’s PS Socialist prime minister António Costa and a number of members of government)
  • Tiago Mayan Gonçalves (representing minority party Iniciativa Liberal)
  • André Ventura (the populist right-wing MP for Chega whose inflammatory discourse has been raising eye-brows for months)
  • Vitorino Silva, better known as Tino de Rans, an independent
  • João Ferreira (supported by the PCP and PEV, the greens)
  • Socialist ‘firebrand’ and former MEP and diplomat Ana Gomes (officially supported by PAN and Livre, but with many fans in her own party as well).

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