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Portugal picks a new president amid turbulent political times

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Portugal picks a new president amid turbulent political times


The people of Portugal are voting for a new president on Sunday in a country never far from political turmoil in recent months.

Voters have a record 10 candidates to choose from but, if the opinion polls are right, just one of them has any real chance of winning the largely ceremonial post.

If frontrunner Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa does win the job, the centre-right political veteran and latter-day TV pundit will have one crucial power at his disposal – the ability to dissolve parliament.

The 67-year-old’s chief rival is Antonio Sampaio da Novoa, who is close to Portugal’s Socialist government.

Backed by the far-left, it ousted the centre-right from power after October’s inconclusive election.

Rebelo de Sousa would succeed fellow conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva who said he only swore in the Socialist government because he was barred by the constitution from calling a new parliamentary election in his last six months in office.

That option will again be available from April 4, six months after the general election. The president can also dismiss the prime minister.

The leftist parties have warned that Rebelo de Sousa could bring back unpopular rightist economic policies.

But so far his statements have been in the spirit of rapprochement.

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