Portugal election: Socialists win third general election in a row with surprise outright majority

Portugal went to the polls two years early after snap elections were called last November

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 31 January 2022 15:30
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Portugal’s ruling Socialists win surprise victory in snap poll

Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party has won its third consecutive general election, storming to an unexpected outright majority as the final results came in from Sunday’s vote.

The centre-left party has won 117 seats in the 230-member parliament with 100 per cent of districts tallied as of 5.30am local time on Monday morning, according to state broadcaster RTP.

The result gives a strong mandate to a party that had appeared in decline in recent opinion polling, and which has ruled as part of a coalition since taking 108 seats in 2019’s election.

The party’s main rival, the centre-right Social Democratic Party, has won 71 seats, a vote share of around 28 per cent compared to the Socialists’ 41.7 per cent.

The two parties have alternated in power for decades.

The far-right party Chega party claimed third sport with 12 seats and the libertarian Liberal Initiative party took 8 seats.

In a victory in the small hours of the morning, prime minister Antonio Costa said: “An absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power. It doesn’t mean to govern alone. It’s an increased responsibility and it means to govern with and for all Portuguese.”

Prior to the elections he had said that the people of Portugal did not want him to govern alone and he was willing to work with the support of like-minded parties.

A country of 10.8 million voters, Portugal went to the polls two years early after snap elections were called last November after parliament rejected the Socialist Party’s budget for 2022.

The elections come as the country is set to use €4bn (£37.5bn) of aid from the European Union to help fire up an economy hit hard by the pandemic.

While two-thirds of the aid will be used for public projects including major infrastructure, the remaining is meant to help a selection of projects by private enterprises.

Sunday’s election saw voters turning out in large numbers despite Covid-19 restrictions to arrest the spread of the Omicron variant.

Earlier the government had eased restrictions for infected people, allowing them to come and cast their votes in person.

Turnout is expected to beat 2019’s record low turnout at 49 per cent.

Portugal, the poorest country in western Europe, has seen its economy falling behind in the 27-nation European Union since 2000.

In 2000, its real annual gross domestic product per capita was $18,300 (£13,643), compared with an EU average of $25,330 (£18,884).

While Portugal’s economy started doing better by 2020 and the real annual gross domestic product per capita touched $19,250 (£14,351) the European Union as a whole moved ahead to $29,750 (£22,177)

Mr Costa, who came to power in 2015, is credited with leading the country’s economic recovery through a period of steady growth that decreased the budget deficit.

The budget also managed a small surplus in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic started.

Mr Costa’s party has promises to increase the minimum wage, on which over 800,000 people are dependent, to €900 per month (£748) by 2026. The minimum wage at present is €705 (£586).

The party also wants to start a “national conversation” around a four-day working week in the country.

It has promised income tax cuts and to help private companies by cutting corporate tax from 21 per cent to 17 per cent by 2026.

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