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Portuguese president ahead as campaign ends

Portuguese president ahead as campaign ends
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Portugal’s outgoing president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, signed off the election campaign in Lisbon predicting victory in the first round on Sunday.

Polls suggest the Social Democrat is indeed a comfortable frontrunner.

He has played a key role in negotiations with the country’s socialist government, as pressure mounts on Portugal to sort out its economy and avoid an international bailout.

“I’ve spoken of future roads that Portugal must take to conquer the scourge of unemployment which affects us, and the excessive external debt which consumes us,” he said.

Cavaco Silva’s closest rival, the socialist Manuel Alegre, chose Porto for his final campaign rally. With support hovering below 25 percent of the vote according to opinion polls, he is well behind the incumbent president.

Painful austerity measures introduced by his party in government have left their mark. With analysts predicting that the economy looks set to get worse this year, Alegre is highlighting his independence.

“I am a free man, an independent man who is there by the force of his convictions, by his ideas, and I have a vision of the president’s role that should not be the hostage of party support,” he said.

Our correspondent in Portugal, Michel Santos, said from Silva’s rally in Lisbon:

“Two weeks on, so ends an electoral campaign that’s been dominated by the economic crisis. A topic that will certainly be top of the agenda for the winner of this Portuguese presidential election.”