LISBON (AP) — Portugal’s Socialist Party won by a wide margin in Sunday’s general election, removing obstacles that had slowed the center-left group’s efforts to spend billions of euros (dollars) in government aid. European Union to revive the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Socialists received 41.7% of the vote and 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament. That majority will allow them to pass legislation without cross-party support during their four-year term.
The center-right Social Democratic Party was second with 27.8% and 76 seats, with four seats still to be filled on Monday.
The early elections were called after parliament last November rejected Prime Minister António Costa’s 2022 state budget. The proposal included his plans to start spending the EU’s 45 billion euros ($50 billion) earmarked for its economy over the next seven years.
“The Portuguese have given a red card to any kind of political crisis,” Costa said in his celebratory speech, alluding to the fall of his minority government two months ago.
“The Portuguese showed that in the coming years they want stability, certainty and security, with our country on a safe path,” he told supporters wearing face masks waving flags at a hotel in the capital Lisbon.
The vote was held amid a surge in coronavirus cases attributed to the omicron variant. Around a million infected voters were allowed to leave their homes and go vote.
Two-thirds of EU funds go to public projects such as major infrastructure works, giving the government room to spend. The other third will be given to private companies.
A parliamentary majority paves the way for the government to allocate the funds, in a country where the economy has struggled to gain momentum since the turn of the century.
Portugal has lagged behind other EU partners since 2000, when its real gross domestic product per capita was 16,230 euros ($18,300), compared with the EU average of 22,460 euros ($25,300). By 2020, Portugal had risen to €17,070 ($19,250), while the bloc’s average rose to €26,380 ($29,750).
The Socialists have promised to raise the minimum wage, which is earned by more than 800,000 people, from 705 euros ($800) to 900 ($1,020) by 2026. They also want to “open a national conversation” about a four-day work week instead of five. .
Some 10.8 million voters – 1.5 million living abroad – could choose the parliamentarians of the Republican Assembly, where the political parties then decide who forms the government.