Still at the helm of the Lisbon City Hall, António Costa has been elected the Socialist Party’s candidate for prime minister in next year’s general election, following a landslide victory in the PS’s primary elections held on Sunday (September 28). It was the first time in Portugal that a political party held primary elections to elect its candidate for a prime minister position.
Costa, 53, secured nearly 68% of the votes against party leader António José Seguro, who resigned, as he had promised, after the results were known.
The mayor is now also seen as the likely successor of Seguro as party leader.
“This is the first of the last days of the current government and the first day of our future (parliament) majority,” Costa said in his victory speech.
He said that “a new and decisive stage” had begun for the party and that there were “no losers” in the primary elections – “just one winner: the PS”.
“I take on this role with the same emotion, responsibility and spirit of service I’ve had since I was 14 in the JS (Youth Socialist Party),” the new PM candidate added.
Meanwhile, Seguro stepped down from his position as PS leader. “I keep to my word – today I step down as the secretary-general of the PS. It was an honour to serve Portugal,” Seguro said after three years leading the government’s main opposition party.
Before congratulating António Costa for his win, Seguro guaranteed that he would not be running for the party’s leadership and would instead attend the next PS congress as a regular supporter.
Until the next congress, scheduled for November, Maria de Belém is taking over as the PS secretary-general. She has been given the task of organising the PS party elections to choose the next Socialist leader. In the ‘short-list’ as other likely candidates for the PS leadership are Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues and Manuel Alegre, while Ana Catarina Mendes could be the next PS parliamentary leader, after Alberto Martins stepped down from the position following Seguro’s defeat.
Soon to replace António Costa at the helm of Lisbon Câmara is deputy mayor Fernando Medina, who may choose councillor Duarte Cordeiro as second-in-command.
Clear victory in Algarve
Guarda was the only district in Portugal in which António José Seguro secured more votes (61.2%) than António Costa. In all others, Costa beat Seguro by significant margins – especially in the Algarve, where Costa won 80.7% of the votes.
The Azores was the only district in which Costa obtained a larger percentage of votes (86.6%) than in the Algarve.
All in all, out of a total of 111,674 voters, 72,461 voted for António Costa.
Fourth to lead?
António Costa will now be setting his sights on becoming Portugal’s fourth prime minister elected by the Socialist Party, following Mário Soares (1976 to 1978 and 1983 to 1985), António Guterres (1995 to 2002) and José Sócrates (2005 to 2011).
A poll by Eurosondagem in August showed that Socialists would win 33% of the votes in a general election ahead of PSD’s 27.5%, but still well behind a parliamentary majority.
As for future polls, it remains to be seen what impact the ‘Tecnoforma scandal’ will have on PM Pedro Passos Coelho’s already fragile reputation.