Elections in Portugal: abstention, decay and new eruptions

Elections in Portugal: abstention, decay and new eruptions

The primary elections in Portugal held on Sunday resulted in a victory for the Socialist Party chaired by António Costa, however, the results also showed other important developments that need to be taken into account.

First, it should be noted that abstention in these elections was historic, with almost 50% of the electorate staying home on election day, showing a clear sign of distrust in the current parties. Although new parties have appeared over the past few years, none reached the minimal quotas in these elections. The influence of right-wing parties multiplied, but none were able to obtain any important seats: even the traditional PSD party, despite coming in second, lost 12 seats compared to the previous elections. The Communist Party also came out in weakened shape, obtaining approximately 6% of the total votes losing half of their seats. The same situation was experienced by the Christian Democratic Party CSD-PP.

The Socialist Party, despite having won the elections by a large amount, has not obtained an absolute majority as it had hoped to during its campaign. This will force them to start conversations with the Left Bloc, the only non-majority party that managed to maintain a margin of 10% in order to allow a government to form.

Among the other surprises from these elections was the resounding growth of the environmental party, who tripled their number of votes. This was likely due to the phenomenon of Greta Thunberg and the international environmental campaign that has strongly influenced the electorate. On the other hand, the emergence of the ultra-right party “Chega” (Stop) who won its first seat has ended the presumption that Portugal was a country free of the “ultra-right.” The growth of this party is mainly due to problems related to immigration and social groups living at the expense of the state.

Portugal was one of the countries most affected by the crisis in southern Europe in recent years, being part of the “PIGS” (as the United Kingdom informally called Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain). Suffering one of the highest unemployment rates in the region and a great migration to other countries of the EEC European Economic Community. Since the socialist party came to power, some reforms were carried out that generated a positive impact on the economy thanks state incentives to increase wages and improve the quality of life, but it should not be forgotten that this was carried out alongside the strong measures austerity required from Brussels and implemented by the previous right-wing government.

The socialist triumph can be linked to the political patronage that it promoted since it came to power in 2015, ensuring that a mass of people dependent on the State see their vote compromised in the ruling Socialist party. It must also be recognized that the “economic miracle” was the result of an increase in indirect taxes on products such as fuels, alcohol and  tobacco, as well as the creation of new tax rates, such as one on sugary drinks.

Gonzalo Collado De Giovannini
Argentinian Spanish-Italian Analyst, specialist in Geopolitics, International Security and Global Affairs. Twitter: @GonzaloCDG

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August 2022