Portugal’s main election candidates have cast their ballots, calling on other voters in the country to follow their lead. According to opinion polls, the incumbent Prime Minister Jose Socrates is expected to win about 38% of the vote. But his Socialist Party is unlikely to retain its current majority.
His main rival, Manuela Ferreira Leite wants to encourage private enterprise by tax breaks. But polls suggest her Social Democrats lag about 8% behind and they are unlikely to close the gap. Critics say Leite’s conservative image will also be a handicap in attracting support.
With neither main party expected to win more than half the seats in Parliament, the winner may seek a coalition with a smaller rival. The Left Block party’s Francisco Louca could field some offers.
Polls indicate he could attract the support of young, urban and disaffected voters, and so become a likely junior partner in a alliance.
Whoever wins faces serious problems. Portugal is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Productivity and education levels are among the lowest on the continent. And unemployment has soared to its highest levels since the 1980s.
Voting will end at around 8 pm local time.