Jose Socrates, the leader of Portugal’s opposition Socialists, is on course to win a comfortable victory in Sunday´s general election – if the opinion polls prove to be right. But a big question remains. Can his party get the absolute majority it needs to implement tough economic reforms to kick-start growth in western Europe’s poorest country?
“I think the people of Portugal have understood that we need an absolute majority,” said Socrates. “And I am convinced they will vote accordingly.”
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes is hopeful too, despite his much criticised tenure at the head of the centre-right Social Democrats before being effectively dismissed by the country’s president in December. “There are a lot of floating voters in this election,” he said. “If they come out for us, as they did in 2002, then there could be surprises. “So we are not getting too worked up about it. We are going to wait calmly for the final result.”
Whoever wins faces the difficult task of closing a stubborn budget gap and slashing high unemployment.
The Portuguese are hoping that the fourth election in three years will make a real difference.