Portuguese citizens living abroad have begun voting in their country’s presidential elections. Although the ballot takes place on Sunday the nearly 200,000 expatriates can cast their votes on Friday in dozens of countries around the world. In Portugal the president has limited powers but can veto laws, appoint prime ministers and dissolve parliament. If no candidate takes at least 50 per cent of the vote in the race to succeed Jorge Sampaio, a second round will be held on February 12.
According to the most recent opinion polls, centre-rightist Anibal Cavaco Silva will narrowly win the ballot in a blow to the divided ruling Socialists. A win by the former prime minister would give the Portuguese their first elected right-of-centre president in decades. Most surveys put Socialist Manuel Alegre in second place. Vice speaker of parliament and from the party’s far left, Alegre is running a wildcat campaign. He has drawn votes from another Socialist candidate – 81-year-old political legend Mario Soares. A two-time president and one of the founders of Portugal’s democracy, he trails in the polls with three other left-leaning hopefuls.