The Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister, Anthony Costa, led the early legislative elections on Sunday and could improve the result of the last elections of 2019, according to exit polls broadcast by three local television stations.
The far right party He arrives (Enough) could become the third political force in the country with up to 8% of the vote, according to the poll by public television RTP.
Costa is risking his permanence in the early legislative elections this Sunday, in which the extreme right can make a great leap.
The 60-year-old leader is proud to have “turned the page on the budgetary austerity” applied by the right after the global financial crisis with the historic alliance formed in 2015 with the radical left formations, the Left Bloc and the communists.
But, when the minority government was also counting on “turning the page on the pandemic” thanks to record vaccination coverage against Covid-19 and the arrival of European economic relaunch funds, its allies rejected its draft budget for 2022, which which triggered the call for early elections.
When his date was set three months ago, polls gave Costa’s Socialist Party (PS, left) 13 points ahead of his main opponent, the Social Democratic Party (PSD, right).
“I hope everyone feels safe to go vote,” he said on Sunday. Costa, who cast his ballot last weekend, as did 300,000 voters, in an early vote organized due to the health crisis.
With one in ten Portuguese in quarantine, the level of participation in the elections, the third organized in Portugal in a pandemic, constitutes another factor of uncertainty.
“I voted for the Socialists because we need them at this difficult time,” Manuel Pinto, a 68-year-old former cabinetmaker who voted in Lisbon, told AFP.
“I wanted to vote early in the morning, first of all for security, because there are fewer people,” said Duarte Raposo, a 33-year-old director, as he left a voting office in Almada, south of Lisbon.
The balance of government “is not very good, but with the Covid you cannot expect much more,” estimates Isabel Rodrigues, a 50-year-old resident of Lisbon.
Despite a “certain disenchantment” with the Socialist Party, the majority of voters believe that Costa has “more competence and experience to govern” than Rui Rio, a 64-year-old economist appreciated for “his candor and authenticity,” says political scientist Marina Costa Lobo.
After the elections, the political future of Portugal “unstable” is announced, estimates the analyst Antonio Costa Pinto, a researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon.
“The viability of a PS or PSD government will depend on the abstention of the other” big party, especially to quickly adopt a budget for economic revival, he predicts.
And it is that both on the left and on the right it will be “complicated” for the moderate parties to negotiate the support of the extremes of a more fragmented Parliament, where the extreme right of the Chega (Basta) party led by Andre Ventura can be third force with 6% of votes.
If Costa is re-elected, he will be able to try to rebuild the left-wing alliance despite the failure of the last budget, caused according to him by the “irresponsibility” of his former allies, who demanded more effort in public services and the recovery of purchasing power.
And if Rio wins the game, he will have to count on the liberals who hope, like Chega, to confirm the strong progression predicted by the polls.
With only one deputy in the outgoing Parliament, the Liberals would be easier to convince for Rio than Chega, a possible partner apparently very volatile and with an anti-system discourse.