- Prime Minister António Costa will continue to depend on other parties to govern effectively.
- The Socialists have governed without a formal coalition, but with the support of several smaller left-wing parties.
- Since taking over the Portuguese government in 2015, Costa has managed to ensure growth and stability in a country previously shaken by a financial crisis.
Portuguese voters on Sunday bucked the European trend and re-elected a center-left party to the helm of the country’s leadership. The Socialist Party, and Prime Minister António Costa, again won the general election, according to early results.
The win, however, isn’t enough to reach an absolute majority in the left-dominated parliament. That means Costa, who will retain his role as the Prime Minister of the country, will continue to depend on other parties to govern effectively. With almost 90% of the votes counted, the Socialist Party had garnered 36.7% of the votes, with the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), managing 27.9% of the votes. Opinion polls released earlier by public broadcaster RTP had predicted that the Socialists would win, with between 34% and 39% of the vote.
While the result falls short of the overwhelming victory expected by Costa’s party this year, the figure gives socialists more seats than those won in the last election in 2015, probably due to the party’s four years of solid economic growth under it’s governance. Party seats are expected to jump from the current 86 to 112 in a 250-seat parliament. For a party to have an absolute majority, it must boast of at least 116 parliamentarians.
“The main question is whether we’ll have our hands tied,” Costa said during a campaign rally Friday. “We need to have the strength to guarantee four years of stability and not be a short-term government.” In the current mandate, the Socialist Party has the support, without a formal coalition, of the Left Bloc (BE), and the Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU), formed by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and the Ecologist Party “The Greens” (PEV).
In Sunday’s preliminary results, BE has won 9.7% of the votes so far, while CDU has won 6.7%. Behind them are the People’s Party (CDS-PP), with 4.3%. Another possible partner in a new governing coalition, the People—Animals—Nature (PAN) Party, appears in sixth place with 3.3%.
Portugal is one of the few countries in Europe where socialists are still strong, and right-wing populists do not play a significant role in politics. Since taking over the Portuguese government in 2015, Costa, a 58-year-old lawyer and former mayor of Lisbon, has managed to ensure growth and stability in a country previously shaken by a financial crisis.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union EU rescued Portugal from bankruptcy in 2011, with an aid package of €78 billion. After three years under the European rescue package, the country managed to recover financially in 2014. However, austerity policies cost the PSD, in power at the time, the next election.
After being elected, Costa succeeded over the next few years in balancing what was considered almost impossible: he relaxed austerity policies, increased social spending, and met the Brussels’ requirements. The economy has grown above the EU average, also thanks to a boom in tourism. At 6.7%, the unemployment rate in the country has recently reached its lowest level since 2002.