Portugal’s ruling Socialists have slipped in opinion poll ratings leaving them slightly ahead of the main opposition with just two weeks to go before a general election which is too close to call.
In a lively TV debate – the main contenders appeared to rule out working together. The leader of the PSD (Social Democrat Party) Manuela Ferreira Leite, accused the government of incompetence. “The way you have conducted the fight against the economic crisis was – in my opinion, as I’ve often said in public before – and you know that – you were wrong,” she said. Prime Minister Jose Socrates retorted: “This year, until August 2009, we have helped 37,000 companies… and you? How many have you helped in 2003 when we also had a crisis and you were the finance minister? You know how many? 1,503.” The margin of error in the polls is bigger than the difference between the Socialists and the centre-right PSD party. So the PSD could could still get more votes in the election on September 27. With no party looking likely to win an absolute majority it seems either the Socialists or the PSD will have to govern in coalition with smaller parties. In third place, the Left Bloc, led by Francisco Louca, looks set to be the main beneficiary.