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31 January 2022

How Portugal’s Socialists triumphed in the general election

The prime minister António Costa has won an unexpected majority after six years in office.

By Nicu Calcea

Portugal’s incumbent Socialist Party won an unexpected majority in the country’s snap general election on Sunday, giving the prime minister a strong new mandate. The election was called after the government lost the support of two smaller left-wing allies, the Communist Party and the Left Bloc, and failed to pass a budget.

 

The results, which gave the Socialists 117 of the 230 seats in parliament and 41.7 per cent of the vote, surprised commentators as opinion polls suggested the party had lost support after six years in office. The party’s main rival, the centre-right Social Democratic Party, won 71 seats and 27.8 per cent of the vote. 

The far right Chega (“Enough”) claimed a small victory as well, finishing third with 12 seats, up from one in the 2019 election. The party has risen to prominence through its anti-Roma and anti-immigration rhetoric. 

While Portugal has managed to roll back austerity measures imposed in the early 2010s and has achieved the highest Covid-19 immunisation rate in Europe, the country remains the poorest in Western Europe. The Socialists must now make the most of the €16.6bn (£13.8bn) of Covid-19 recovery funds that they will receive from the EU. 

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