Portugal votes for new government under bailout shadow

The Portuguese went to the polls on Sunday to elect a government which will lead the nation through a period of deep austerity and recession after it received a €78-billion bailout from the European Union and IMF.

The election will end a period of political and financial turmoil that started with the collapse of the Socialist government in March and led Lisbon to become the third country in the euro zone to seek a bailout after Greece and Ireland.



The Portuguese, who face unemployment at its highest level in three decades, are expected to reject caretaker Prime Minister Jose Socrates in the snap ballot and turn to opposition centre-right Social Democrat Pedro Passos Coelho.



Polling stations opened at 8am (0700 GMT) on a warm sunny morning in central Lisbon,, but there were no queues outside - just one or two people waiting here and there.



The latest opinion polls gave Passos Coelho around 37 percent support compared with 31 percent for Socrates, which will most likely mean that the Social Democrat will need to team up with the small rightist CDS party to form a majority in parliament.



Antonio Barroso, Europe analyst at Eurasia, said such a rightist coalition government was the most likely election outcome.



"This would be the most straightforward option if the Social Democrats and CDS can secure an absolute majority between them," Barroso said in a research note.



"Both parties are strongly committed to the implementation of the bailout conditions and would easily negotiate a common economic programme."



The CDS has about 12 percent backing in polls.





The formation of such a centre-right government would be welcomed by investors, who lost faith in the country in the past few months, dumping its bonds and sending borrowing rates to euro-era highs.



President Anibal Cavaco Silva addressed the nation late on Saturday, asking people to vote and calling the election "particularly decisive" because Portugal "is submerged in a deep economic and social crisis."



"The government that will emerge from this election will have the responsibility to honour the commitments taken (under the bailout plan), which are very demanding," he said, adding that aside from fulfilling the terms, the government will have to guarantee social justice and fight unemployment.



A centre-right government would be able to quickly enact reforms and austerity measures included in the bailout, such as sweeping tax hikes and deep spending cuts, to ensure the country reduces its large debts.



But Portugal's economy is expected to contract two percent both this year and next, raising tough challenges for any incoming government as the disposable incomes of the Portuguese decline and austerity takes its toll.



So far there have been few strikes and protests against the austerity, unlike in Greece and in neighbouring Spain, but as the country's recession deepens that could change, analysts say.



There could also be growing discontent as the incoming government will have to launch widespread privatisations in an effort to cut state costs under the terms of the bailout.



Socrates, who stayed on as caretaker prime minister since he resigned in March, was half way through his second term when his minority government collapsed, worn down by the sovereign debt crisis and the dire state of the economy.



Both Socrates and Passos Coelho blamed each other for the bailout in the election campaign but the Portuguese appear to mostly hold Socrates responsible for the poor economy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence