Voters give Socialists the orange card

news: Voters give Socialists the orange card

IT WAS a disastrous night for the Socialists (PS), even worse than local election results four years ago that led to the resignation of António Guterres.

Heads are very unlikely to roll in the same way this time because current Prime Minister José Sócrates is just eight months into an overwhelming mandate. But he will be very worried that his government, which was given such an endorsement last February, has sunk so far in public esteem in so short a time.

The evening culminated in the defeat of former Socialist Culture Minister Manuel Maria Carrilho, the party’s candidate for the presidency of Lisbon Câmara. Another notable vanquished Socialist candidate was João Soares, the son of former President, Mário Soares, who was defeated in Sintra.

Sombre mood in Hotel Altis

But, all eyes were on Manuel Maria Carrilho, ensconced on the 12th floor of the Hotel Altis with his wife, TV presenter Bárbara Guimarães. At 7pm, early exit polls suggested he was crashing to defeat. By 9pm, it was clear that voters had punished both Carrilho and the Socialist government for their package of austerity measures, marking a dramatic turnaround in the party’s fortunes since its dazzling general election triumph.

The first official reaction in the basement of the Hotel Altis came from Nuno Gaioso Ribeiro, number two on Carrillho’s list for the Câmara. “We are very worried how our ideas and our projects were received by the people,” he announced, somewhat understatedly, to the press.

Carrilho finally emerged with his wife Bárbara andan extended entourage at 11pm. Composed and smiling, he thanked his team for their help during the campaign but failed to congratulate the victor, Carmona Rodrigues. He stressed that he had fought a good campaign: “We outlined a programme for change. Ours was the most principled of all the manifestos,” he said. “If Lisbon is to reverse its decline, it will have to adopt many of the ideas we have presented,” he added.

Then, he and Bárbara made a swift exit, hustled by the relentless scrum of photographers who had tracked them throughout the vicissitudes of an acrimonious campaign. In the end, despite the advantages of a glamorous wife and the full backing of Sócrates, he had lost to Carmona Rodrigues by a margin of 15 per cent.

By Gabriel Hershman