Resounding victory: the socialist Antonio Costa obtained an unexpected absolute majority in Portugal
PARIS.- After days of intense uncertainty, the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS) Prime Minister Antonio Costa won the legislative elections last night anticipated and obtained the absolute majority, with close to 42% of the vote, followed by the Social Democratic Right (PSD), whose results would be below 30%. The The extreme right was another of the surprises of the night, given that it became the third political force in the country.
The Socialists won 117 of the 230 seats in parliament, followed by 71 seats from the centre-right PSD. With this result, Costa will no longer depend on the two radical left parties that have accompanied him since 2015 and it will be able to form a government only with its PS, a space that Portugal directed during 19 of the last 25 years.
The result was especially surprising because the day was announced to be very difficult for the government, led by the Socialist Prime Minister Anthony Costa, whose formation was elbow to elbow with the right of the PSD. In power since 2015, Costa is proud of having “put an end to the budgetary austerity” practiced by the right, thanks to a historic alliance with far-left parties, the Left Bloc, and a Communist-Green coalition. That coalition exploded when those formations rejected the budget project for 2022, forcing costa, three months ago, to call early elections.
At that time, the polls gave the PS an advance of 13 points over its main opponent, the PSD. But that advantage evaporated with the passing of days until, in the latest opinion polls, the PS obtained between 35% and 36%, against 33% for the right of the PSD of the former mayor of Portugal, Rui Rio.
Faced with this small difference, the polling institutes reserved their forecasts, declaring a “technical tie”. In addition, with one Portuguese out of ten in quarantine due to Covid, the level of participation in the vote —the third organized in Portugal since the pandemic began— constituted an additional factor of uncertainty. But that fear did not materialize either. The Portuguese mobilized much more than in the 2019 elections, exceeding 56% against 51% then.
“An absolute majority is not absolute power, governing alone… is a greater responsibility”, Costa declared tonight to his supporters at his party’s campaign headquarters. “The conditions have been created to make investments and reforms so that Portugal is more prosperous, fair and innovative,” he added.
For the progressive field, the bad news came with the good score obtained by Chega (ID), the far-right formation that will go from a single deputy, its president André Ventura, to become the third political force in the country, with 12 seats. Allied to the French Marine Le Pen and to Italian Matteo Salvini, that 39-year-old former tax inspector He is also close to the Spaniards of Vox.
As the third political force in Portugal, Chega will occupy the place resoundingly left yesterday by the extreme left of the Left Bloc, which went from 7% to just 3.55% of the vote.
“Everything is going to be different in parliament,” Ventura, a former sports commentator, told his supporters. “From now on there will be no soft opposition. We will take on the role of being the real opposition to the socialists… and restoring dignity to this country.”, he added.
Alone, the next government will have to face huge challenges after two years of pandemic. Costa will be able to count, however, on historical budgets thanks to the reactivation funds of the European Union (EU): 45,000 million euros, distributed over the next seven years. Two thirds of that figure will be allocated to public projects, the rest must be attributed to private companies.
Despite a “certain disenchantment”, it is evident that the majority of voters considered that Costa has “more skills and experience to govern” than Rui Rio, a 64-year-old economist, appreciated for his “frankness and authenticity”, analyzes the political scientist Marina Costa Lobo.