By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
José Sócrates’ ruling Socialist Party won the General Election on Sunday but lost its overall majority in the Portuguese parliament.
Calling it an “extraordinary election victory”, the Prime Minister garnered 36.6 per cent of total votes in an election that was marked by abstentions running at around 39.5 per cent, the highest since April 25, 1974.
The elections saw the government’s majority eaten away by both the right wing CDS-PP party, which bagged 10.5 per cent of the vote, and the left wing Bloco de Esquerda, which netted 9.8 per cent, 250,000 votes more than the last General Election.
It was a disappointing night for the leader of the opposition PSD party Manuela Ferreira Leite, who trailed behind the victors with 29.1 per cent of the vote, making it increasingly likely she will step down as party leader some time after the local council elections on October 11.
In his election victory speech, Sócrates promised to govern with his electoral programme, which was fought on big ticket public spending programmes including energy, road and rail infrastructure and a new international airport.
However, the returned Prime Minister said he wouldn’t close the door to governing with coalitions, whether to the right or left.
“The PS will take on the responsibility that the people have conferred upon it with a relative majority but the responsibility of governing with our own electoral programme,” he said while his Minister for Social Security, José Vieira da Silva, called it a “victory over pessimism”.
Manuela Ferreira Leite, who fought the election on pledges to help small and medium enterprises and keep taxes down, said: “I presented the Portuguese with proposals that I considered necessary given the difficulties that the country is facing.
“Life goes on… the local election campaign starts today and the PSD must mobilise itself for those elections.”
Right wing CDS-PP leader Paulo Portas trumpeted the results as not only useful “but very useful”.
“It’s a victory of common sense in Portugal when the CDS has today become a truly national party,” he said.
Many analysts suspect that the opposition PSD party, which had initially been closer in the polls during the early part of the election campaign, had lost ground following a number of seemingly politically motivated attacks on the moral character of Prime Minister José Sócrates.
The first involved claims that the government was trying to “strangle democracy” after a popular private TV station anchor was removed from her post for criticising the Prime Minister’s authoritarian style and questioning his handling of a corruption scandal over the then British-owned retail outlet Freeport near Lisbon in 2002 when he was Minister for the Environment.
There then followed unsubstantiated claims from the right that the Prime Minister had been using the Portuguese secret services to spy on President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, amid rumours that their professional relationship was unworkable.
The government is now likely to be forced into a coalition with the far left-wing Bloco de Esquerda and communist PCP parties which together with the PS party hold 55 per cent of seats in the Portuguese parliament.
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