Parliamentary elections in Portugal: will Costa’s move go wrong?

Status: 01/30/2022 08:09 a.m

Portugal’s socialist minority government failed. In today’s parliamentary elections, conservatives and right-wing populists could jointly force them out of office – but it will also be difficult for them afterwards.

By Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Studio Madrid

Antonio Costa has gambled and looks set to lose – this is how some observers in Portugal are commenting on the state of affairs just before the election. A few weeks ago, the Portuguese Prime Minister’s calculations seemed to be working out: in polls, Costa was clearly ahead with the Socialist Party, and a majority of seats in parliament seemed within reach.

Reinhard Spiegelhauer
ARD-Studio Madrid

That’s how he imagined it, which is why he and his minority government aimed at the failure of the budget draft in parliament in the fall, he said himself. Costa said at the time, knowing full well that the president would dissolve parliament and hoping for an increase in votes for the socialists, that the vote was lost and that the government would continue to meet its responsibilities.

Distrust of “Brussels role model”

But in the meantime, rival candidate Rui Rio from the conservative PSD has caught up in the polls. Costa is on the verge of losing the elections, and in view of his long political career, please let him lose gracefully – with such aggressive optimism that Rio is dishing out against the head of government.

But why could things have turned out well for Costa and why doesn’t it look like it now? The socialists have reduced the national debt with a consistently balanced budget, tolerated by the extreme left. But she thinks she’s swallowed enough toads. And although Costa is considered a model boy in Brussels because he has brought the country forward without massive cuts, there is growing fear in his own country that the bad end is yet to come after the Corona crisis.

Off to new horizons? Portugal’s conservatives have recently scored points in the polls.

Image: dpa

“Chega!” could become the third strongest force

The Conservatives now seem to be benefiting from the uncertainty – but they too will not be able to win a majority of seats. Everything points to a stalemate between the centre-left on the one hand and conservatives and right-wing populists on the other. The Socialist Costas’ informal alliance with the left bloc may have damaged both sides beyond repair.

The conservatives, on the other hand, would have to deal with the right-wing populists of “Chega!” – in German: “It’s enough!” – work together. Among other things, their boss Andre Ventura is stirring up the mood against “gypsies, abortion, immigration and subsidies”: pensions of 200 or 300 euros, while others get money without working for it – that’s what “Chega!” have an end. Just like the tolls on the freeways, Ventura railed in the election campaign.

According to polls, the right-wing populists could become the third strongest force in parliament with almost ten percent. In the Azores, a conservative government alliance can already be described as “Chega!” support.

Conservatives rail against socialists

Costa and the Socialists are now warning of this option in order to turn things around. The conservatives with their candidate Rio accuse them of a smear campaign: He looked it up, so Rio – the socialists had voted more than 1000 times during the legislative period just like “Chega!” Costa couldn’t complain that there were overlaps between the conservative PSD and the right-wing populists.

Whatever the outcome of the election, forming a government will not be easy. The incumbent now has the same idea: Costa said a few days ago that he had the impression that the Portuguese apparently did not want to be governed by one party alone. You just have to wait for the result on Sunday evening.

Leave a Comment