Portugal goes to the polls today


Portugal is the first of the major European countries to have been bailed out after the 2009 financial crisis to face fresh election (discounting the Greek turmoil).

In the 2011 general election the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) dropped 23 seats and were replaced by a centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) led government which included the centre-right CDS – People’s Party (CDS-PP).

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has steered the country through a stringent austerity package after it received a €78 billion bailout package in 2011. That hasn’t made the government popular but the economy did grow by 1.5% in 2014 and unemployment has fallen from a high of 17.7% in 2013 to 12.1% in July this year. The government also received more welcome news when Standard and Poor’s recently revised upwards their investment rating for the country upwards from BB to BB+.

The government is playing the ‘don’t throw all the hard work away’ card whilst the Socialists are saying that they will stick to the bailout terms but ease austerity measures. There is no left-wing Syriza (Greece) or Podemos (Spain) equivalent in Portugal.

In 2011 the Social Democratic Party (PSD) won 108 seats and formed a government with the CDS – People’s Party (CDS-PP) who won 24 seats.

The Socialist Party (PS) came second with 74 seats and the left-wing Democratic Unitarian Coalition (comprising the Portuguese Communist Party – PCP and The Greens – PEV) won 16 seats. The only other party to win representation was the left-wing Left Bloc which took eight seats.

In this election the 9,682,369 eligible voters will be voting for 230 members of the Assembly of the Republic. There are 21 parties contesting but only 14 will fight in all 22 districts. Polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. Voting abroad took place between 22nd and 24th September.

The latest opinion polls are a bit of a mixed bag. Some point to a narrow Socialist Party win but with them possibly having to do deals with the Communists and Left Bloc. This may put off some voters who don’t want to see a strong leftist government in power.

The most recent polls give the Social Democrats and CDS – People’s Party (now in an electoral alliance called the Portugal Ahead or Portugal Alliance – PaF – Aliança Portugal) the edge. A mid-September poll put the Portugal Ahead on 40% and the Socialists on 35% but that could still change.

One other consideration will be the turnout. A lot of people are disillusioned with all politicians and the turnout could be low; it was only 58.03% in 2011.

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