In Portugal, electoral triumph for Antonio Costa’s socialists

In Portugal, electoral triumph for Antonio Costa’s socialists

The Prime Minister won 36.65% of the vote and consolidated his majority in Parliament after four years of economic success.

They have become rare, countries where socialists are on the rise, while populists are almost absent. Portugal is one of them, as evidenced by the results of the parliamentary elections on Sunday 6 October.

Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa emerged significantly stronger despite a record abstention (45.5%): according to almost definitive results, the formation of the former mayor of Lisbon, aged 58, won 36.65% of the vote and will have at least 106 seats out of 230 in Parliament, against 86 in 2015.

The Socialists are therefore well ahead of their main opponents of the Social Democratic Party (PSD, centre-right), which fell to 27.9% of the vote and 77 seats against 89.

However, Antonio Costa, who came to power in 2015 at the head of a left-wing union to turn the page on austerity, did not have an absolute majority, which would force him to seek the support of other parties in a Parliament largely dominated by the left.


Alliances on the left

A keen tactician, the socialist had succeeded in forming a minority government in 2015, despite his defeat against the right, thanks to the support of the left-wing bloc (radical left) and the communists. An unprecedented pact pejoratively nicknamed the “geringon├ža” (team of bric-a-brac and broc) by its opponents, but which allowed it to last four years.

Celebrating his victory in front of his supporters, he said he was ready to “renew this experience” of the union of the left.

“Stability is essential for Portugal’s international credibility and to attract investors. The SP will strive to build solutions that ensure this stability throughout the legislature. ┬╗

This time, the SP will be able to “reach the majority with variable geometries” and content itself with “seeking ad hoc agreements” to pass its laws, stressed analyst Pedro Norton on the public television channel RTP.

The left-wing bloc, which has 19 seats as in 2015, has already said it is “ready to negotiate (with the SP) an agreement to ensure the country’s stability”, according to its number one Catarina Martins. With 12 seats, the communists, who are retreating, have also not ruled out supporting the SP again.

Antonio Costa has another potential ally, the animalist party PAN, founded by a Buddhist philosopher, which has grown from one to four seats.


Unemployment at its lowest level

Since Antonio Costa came to power, the Portuguese economy has dramatically consolidated the recovery that began after the drastic austerity measures implemented by the previous right-wing government following the country’s financial rescue in 2011.

Growth (3.5% in 2017 and 2.4% in 2018) is currently at its highest level since the early 2000s and unemployment has returned to its pre-crisis level (6.4%).

Above all, the former lawyer succeeded in unravelling the big gap by increasing pensions or civil servants’ salaries, while at the same time taking advantage of the good economic situation to play the leading role in the eurozone’s public deficit class, which is expected to fall to 0.2% of GDP this year.

This economic and social balance sheet will have been his main campaign argument, even if public debt is still around 120% of GDP and the Portuguese are still complaining about low wages, a deterioration in public services and the rise in property prices caused by the explosion in tourism…

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