Portugal: Prime Minister António Costa may continue to govern – politics

The disillusionment was great at Rui Rio’s election party, who had called together PSD supporters in a hotel in central Lisbon to celebrate this Sunday evening. First the chants, which one could still hear from the last days of the election campaign, shouted their rhythmic “PSD”, the abbreviation of Rio’s conservative Partido Social Democrata. But then the hall fell silent, she reported Public-Journalist Leonete Botelho on election night. Even the first forecasts immediately after the polls closed showed that it was not the challenger Rui Rio who won this election, but the previous Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. And not just, as the polling institutes had predicted before the election day, but quite clearly.

Between 37 and 42 percent of the votes were predicted for the socialist Costa on election night. The final counting result was not expected until Monday. For the head of the Partido Socialista (PS), an absolute majority is within reach. And this despite the fact that most political observers in Portugal and the previous prime minister himself agreed: the Portuguese do not like absolute majorities.

But even if Costa needs one or more partners to govern, he has a few to choose from. It seems unlikely that he would again get involved with the left bloc and the communists, who had tolerated the socialist minority government in Portugal since 2015. Especially since the voters show in their voting results that they resent Costa’s two previous partners for having blown up the government with their no to the budget for the current year and for having made the early elections necessary in the first place. In any case, the election result that the left bloc and the communists achieved this Sunday is far below the result of the last election in autumn 2019.

The right-wing populists in particular benefited

The right-wing populist Chega party in particular benefited from the new election. The formation of ex-sports commentator André Ventura, previously perceived as a one-man protest party, will probably be represented as the third strongest force in the Assembleia da República in Lisbon. The electoral success of Chega, who had caused a stir with an election campaign against minorities such as Roma, was at the expense of Rui Rio’s conservatives, as was the gain of the small liberal party Iniciativa Liberal, which was only founded in 2017 and has only had one representative in parliament so far.

The Portuguese electoral system, in which there is no five-percent hurdle, tends to favor the large traditional parties of the centre. Because many of the more rural constituencies in the north and east of the country only send a single-digit number of MPs to parliament in Lisbon. This time it was the Socialists in particular who were able to convince. However, 88 of the 230 seats are in the two largest constituencies, Lisbon and Porto, where many of the small and micro parties were able to hold their own this Sunday, as in 2019.

Another trend that has emerged in recent years seems to have stopped for the time being: voter turnout did not fall this Sunday for the first time in 17 years. In the last general election in 2019, only 48.6 percent of the Portuguese eligible to vote cast their vote. In the presidential election last spring, which also took place under pandemic conditions, it was only 39.5 percent. This time, the omicron wave has made the choice somewhat uncomfortable, at least for the almost one million Portuguese who are currently in quarantine. But a solution was found: as an exception, those who were in isolation were allowed to leave the house for an hour in the evening and go to the polling station.

Election day was overshadowed by a report by a hacker group that claims to have hacked the website of the Portuguese parliament and stolen a “large amount of sensitive data” as well as government information, personal data and passwords. The group, which calls itself “Lapsus,” announced a hacker attack on a newspaper publisher and a private Portuguese broadcaster a few weeks ago. It is not yet known who is behind the pseudonym and whether there really was an attack on the parliament’s database, and the authorities have not confirmed it.


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