Portuguese Socialists set to take power

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The Independent Online

Portugal was heading for a Socialist government last night, following a general election called when the conservative regime collapsed last December.

Portugal was heading for a Socialist government last night, following a general election called when the conservative regime collapsed last December.

The Socialist leader, Jose Socrates, 47, said he was confident of a clear majority after a campaign in which the dominant theme has been the sluggish economy. With that, he need not seek alliance with the Communists or the radical Left Bloc.

Polls suggested Mr Socrates enjoyed a 15 per cent advantage over his main rival, the outgoing prime minister, Pedro Santana Lopes, leader of the Social Democrat party. Voting appeared sluggish, reflecting a lacklustre campaign and political disenchantment.

Mr Santana Lopes headed the country's fourth government in three years, in uneasy alliance with the right-wing Popular Party. He took over from Jose Manuel Barroso, who stepped down in July to head the European Commission. The government stumbled on until President Jorge Sampaio dissolved parliament, saying the public had lost confidence.

Mr Socrates promised to improve growth by investing in technology, and to cut spending by reducing public sector jobs through natural wastage. Portugal's textile and shoe-making industries have been hit by far-eastern competition.

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