Voting has begun in Portugal’s general election.
More than eight million people are eligible to cast their ballots and the country’s president has appealed for a high turnout, saying it is very important at a time of political and economic instability. Eleven parties are in the running but the hot favourites are the oppositionSocialists. The big question, however, is whether party leader Jose Socrates will win the absolute majority he needs to push through tough economic reforms. That will depend on how small parties on the right and far left perform. The Socialists have capitalised on the woes of Pedro Santana Lopes, the caretaker prime minister and his ruling centre-right Social Democrats. President Jorge Sampaio effectively dismissed Lopes in December after losing confidence in his government. The weak economy dominated the campaign and the mainstream parties have all pledged to boost growth and create jobs.