The ruling Socialist Party has won the Portuguese elections with 36.6% of the vote (down from 45.03% at the last elections in 2005). Prime Minister Jose Socrates has therefore hung onto his job for the next four years. The party will have 96 MPs in the new parliament.
The party has however lost their outright majority in parliament and will therefore have to seek a coalition or (as is common in Portugal) govern as a minority party. This is seen as a rap on the knuckles for Jose Socrates who has been mired by sleeze and scandals, and much criticised for his handling of the economic crisis. He has however campaigned tirelessly in the run-up to this election, demonstrating without a doubt his energy and fierce desire to remain in power. In opposition, Manuela Ferreira Leite, the leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party polled a disappointing 29.1% (as opposed to 28.77% at the last polls). The party will have 78 MPs in the new parliament. This was a bitter blow for the opposition party, indicating as it does that the country is not ready for the centre-right message that austerity is the only way forward. Manuela Ferreira Leite has been bitterly opposed to the government’s policy of public spending to counter the economic downturn, in particular the planned high speed train link with Spain. It is clear however from these election results, that the electorate does not agree with her. In third place, the People’s Party (the Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular – CDS/PP) polled 10.5% (as opposed to 7.24% last time). The party will have 21 MPs in the new parliament. This result was a welcome surprise, even to the party as polls had predicted them as only winning fourth place. In fourth place, the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda or BE) polled 9.9% as opposed to 6.35% last time. This is a good result for them but less than they at hoped because at one point in the election campaigning it looked as if they were set to win as much as 20% of the vote. The party will increase their MPs, to 16 in the new parliament. In a speech, the Left Bloc leader Francisco Louca said that the Left Bloc was the party which held out hope for Portugal and said that the party had done very well in some towns and cities. He said that the country had a lot of problems to face and that the countries problems were directly linked to the future of the left. He said the social security system had to be rebuilt, that unemployment payments had to be sorted out. He said that part time employment should be converted ito real full time jobs by reforming the work code. The third objective for the Left would be to have a meaningful wealth tax and a minimum wage and lastly, a decent retirement pension. He also promised to dog the new government’s every step. He finished by saying that with the new mandate for the Left, things would never be the same again. After tonight, he said, he would have more power to argue against privatisation. He declared that the Left should be ready to fight for basic workers’ rights. He finished by thanking everyone. The Green/Communist alliance the CDU – made up of the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) and the PEV (Portuguese Ecologist Party aka the Greens) – together polled 7.54% in the last polls. This time round, they have polled 7.9% giving them 15 MPs in the new parliament. More than half a million people (ie 9% of the working population) are currently unemployed in Portugal, which is one of the EU’s poorest countries, many people (around a third of the workforce) taking home less than 600 euros a month. This is the highest unemployment rate in 20 years but with turnout at a depressing 59.1% (the lowest turnout ever recorded in Portugal, down from 64.26% last time) it is clear that a sizeable proportion of the electorate have yet to be convinced that any of their politicians can get the country back to work, let alone solve the long-term economic problems. by Samantha David