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António Costa joins in early voting a week ahead of Portugal’s general election

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By Heather Donald
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António Costa joins in early voting a week ahead of Portugal’s general election
Copyright  AP Photo/Paulo Duarte

Voters in Portugal have been casting their ballots a week ahead of the country's national elections.

The official election date is 30 January, but the early voting option was introduced to avoid over-crowding on the day itself.

More than 300,000 voters signed up for it, including the incumbent Prime Minister António Costa.

"Voting is the most important moment of democracy,” he said. “It is a unique moment when only citizens decide what the outcome of the elections will be, it's when they decide what they want for their future, and they choose their representatives."

"Participation in the electoral process is the most important act of democratic vitality and I want to appeal to all the Portuguese to exercise their civic right, today, if they were registered for early voting; or in a week's time as usual."

A snap election was called by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa after Costa failed to secure support in parliament in November for his 2022 budget. It's the first time that has happened in the country since the return to democratic rule.

The state budget is particularly important now because it sets out how billions of euros in European Union aid to recover from the pandemic will be spent.

The Socialists have governed Portugal since 2015 under Costa's premiership, and recent opinion polls put the centre-left party in the lead on 38% of the vote. But their main rivals, the Social Democratic Party have 30%, which could leave the Socialists without a working majority once again.

Early voting is authorised for those who are not in quarantine due to the pandemic. The government has issued a recommendation that allows for people who are under mandatory isolation due to COVID-19 to be able to vote next Sunday.

Around 89% of Portugal's population of 10.3 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 3.5 million people have received booster shots. But new daily cases have set records of around 50,000 in recent days, although hospitalisations have remained much lower than in previous surges.

Additional sources • AP