Portugal votes in parliamentary elections: latest updates

Millions of voters head to the polls across Portugal on Sunday for parliamentary elections in which, unusually for present-day Europe, there is little sign of populism or the far-right.

Portugal’s 10.8 million eligible voters are electing 230 lawmakers to the Republican Assembly, as the Portuguese parliament is called.

Those lawmakers then vote on a proposed government, usually put forward by the party with the most seats in parliament.

Across the European Union, radical new parties are reshaping the political landscape while traditional Socialist parties have lost ground, but that’s not the case in Portugal.

Key figures

The two leading candidates for prime minister are incumbent Socialist leader Antonio Costa and his Social Democrat challenger, Rui Rio.

While Costa is poised to win, it is not clear if he will get an absolute majority. He is currently ruling with support from two far-left, eurosceptic parties, a coalition known ‘Geringonça’ or ‘contraption’.

Read more: Portugal elections: Who are the main parties?

Costa, 58, wants to secure an absolute majority so he can govern alone. The wily operator previously held cabinet posts in three governments and served two consecutive terms as mayor of the capital, Lisbon.

He momentarily lost his cool on Friday evening, shouting at an elderly voter while campaigning. The man accused him of not being present during the wildfire tragedy that left around 100 dead in 2017. Costa defended himself angrily, calling the man a “liar” and an “agitator”.

Read more: Is this the end of the ‘contraption’ coalition?

Rio, 62, is a former mayor of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city in the north and Lisbon’s traditional cultural and industrial rival. An economist, he has served as a lawmaker but has never held a government post. As Social Democrat leader since Jan. 2018, he has struggled to contain his party critics.

Immigration off the agenda

Unlike many other recent European elections, immigration is not even an election issue. That may be because the European Union’s migrant surge has largely bypassed Portugal.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to southern Europe, triggering a backlash in Italy and Spain. Portugal doesn’t lie on those geographic routes, and as one of western Europe’s financially poorest countries its appeal to migrants is muted.

The number of asylum-seekers in Germany and France, together numbering more than 300,000 last year, dwarf Portugal’s total, which barely reached four figures.

If migration reached a similar scale in Portugal, the Portuguese could swiftly change their attitude, says Antonio Costa Pinto, a professor at Lisbon University’s Social Sciences Institute.

“There’s nothing making Portugal immune” to migrant controversies, he said.

Natural kingmakers?

A deal with the People-Animals-Nature (PAN) party is this election’s possible new scenario.

If the Socialists fall narrowly short of an overall majority, the four or more seats that some polls give the PAN could be enough to help the Socialists govern.

PAN has said it is ready to support a Socialist government if it commits to some of its environmentalist proposals. Analysts say the budget costs of such a deal would probably be much lower than those of other potential pacts.

Read the full article at: euronews.com

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