Portugal opposition centre-right party wins election: official results


LISBON: Portugal’s main centre-right party narrowly defeated the incumbent Socialists but fell well short of a majority in a general election that saw far-right Chega surge to become a potential kingmaker.

The result marks another advance for the populist far right in Europe, where they already govern — often in coalition — in countries such as Italy, Hungary and Slovakia, or are steadily gaining, as in France and Germany.

Near-complete official results showed early Monday that the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) captured 29.49 percent percent of the vote in Sunday’s poll, just ahead of the Socialists, with 28.66 percent.

That would give the AD 79 seats in the 230-seat parliament against 77 for the Socialists, who have been in power since 2015.

Chega, led by former priest trainee and television football commentator Andre Ventura, captured 18 percent of the vote, giving it 48 seats, up from just 12 in the last election in 2022.

Even with the backing of new business-friendly party Liberal Initiative, (IL) which won 8 seats, the AD would still need the support of Chega to reach a majority to pass legislation.

“Chega asked to become the centrepiece of the political system and it achieved this result,” Ventura said late Sunday in an address to his supporters who chanted “Portugal, Portugal”.

“We want to give Portugal a stable government,” he added.

Immigration concerns

Chega has said it would demand to be part of a rightist coalition government in exchange for parliamentary support, but during the campaign AD leader Luis Montenegro repeatedly ruled out any post-election agreement with the anti-establishment party branded as xenophobic by its critics.

He will now likely come under considerable pressure from his own party to reach some sort of agreement with the far right.

“The Portuguese have spoken and they said they want a change in government, of policies,” Montenegro told supporters early Monday after the results were known.

The AD had campaigned on promises to boost economic growth by cutting taxes, and to improve unreliable public health services and education, which have been hit by strikes by teachers and school workers over pay.

Like other populist far-right parties in Europe, Chega has tapped into concerns about crime and rising immigration.

With one of Europe’s most open immigration regimes, Portugal has seen its foreign-born population double in five years and hit one million last year — one-tenth of the country’s population.

Chega, which means “Enough”, calls for stricter controls over immigration, tougher measures to fight corruption and chemical castration for some sex offenders.

Just five years old, Chega picked up its first seat in Portugal’s parliament in 2019. It was the first far-right party to win representation in the assembly since a military coup in 1974 toppled a decades-long right-wing dictatorship.

‘Better future’

There are still four seats left to be assigned representing Portuguese who live abroad, but those results will not be known for days. They have traditionally gone mostly to the centre-right.

The election was called after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, 62, unexpectedly resigned in November following an influence-peddling probe that involved a search of his official residence and the arrest of his chief of staff.

Though Costa himself was not accused of any crime, he decided not to run again.

On his watch, unemployment has dropped, the economy expanded by 2.3 percent last year — one of the fastest rates in the eurozone — and public finances have improved.

But surveys indicate many voters feel Costa’s government squandered the outright majority it won in 2022 by failing to improve public services or to address a housing crisis that has sparked large street protests in what remains one of Western Europe’s poorest countries.

Adolfo Cesar Pereira, a 23-year-old financial services worker, said the AD’s win “raised hopes for a better future”.

Young people “really struggle to find well paid jobs with good conditions. there are lots of problems with housing,” he told AFP at the AD’s headquarters in Lisbon.

The Socialists’ new leader, 46-year-old former infrastructure minister Pedro Nuno Santos, had warned that the right would have to slash pensions and other social spending to finance its promised tax cuts.__Daily Hurriyet