LISBON – Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called early elections for January 30 on Thursday, after the minority socialist government was defeated in a key budget vote last week.
“At times like this, we need a fearless, drama-free solution,” Rebelo de Sousa said in a televised address. “This is the only way for the Portuguese to… choose what they want in the years to come.”
The election comes at a delicate time for Portuguese politics, with the breakdown of the loose left-wing alliance that has kept Prime Minister António Costa in power since 2015 and the center-right opposition in disarray.
Rebelo de Sousa criticized the budget defeat as “incomprehensible”. He warned the country cannot afford a period of instability as it charts a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues with plans to spend its share of the $ 2 trillion stimulus package. euros from the European Union.
On Wednesday evening, Rebelo de Sousa was given the green light to dissolve parliament and call early elections to the Council of State, an advisory body made up largely of seasoned politicians.
The political crisis was sparked by the decision last week of the Portuguese Communist Party and the Left Bloc to join the right in voting against the 2022 budget proposed by the Costa government.
This abruptly ended the informal arrangement with the far left that underpinned Costa’s minority administration. After the dissolution of parliament, the government should remain interim until the elections.
According to the POLITICO poll, Costa’s Socialist Party (PS) is well in the lead, with 39%, which would put him close to securing an absolute majority in parliament, a feat he last achieved in 2005 .
Without a majority, the PS could strike a deal with the small animal rights party PAN, but would find it difficult to strengthen its relations with the Communists and the Left Bloc, both of whom have seen their electoral support dwindle since the conclusion of the election. government agreement with the Socialists.
Support for the main center-right opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), hovers around 27%. PSD supporters have tried to persuade Rebelo de Sousa to postpone the early elections as the party seeks to resolve an ugly leadership feud.
Party chairman Rui Rio faces his third leadership challenge since taking office in 2018, with party members due to vote on December 4 to replace him with Paulo Rangel, a member of the European Parliament.
ELECTORAL SURVEY AT THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT OF PORTUGAL
For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Poll polls.
Long an ally of the PSD in the government, the conservative CDS-People Party is even worse off. Polls are only around 2% and many high-ranking members are in open revolt after leaders sought to thwart a takeover bid by another MEP, Nuno Melo.
Two new parties are preparing to take advantage of the woes of the traditional right: the liberal pro-business initiative, with a poll of around 5%; and the far right Chega with polling rates of up to 9%. Both scored less than 2% in the last election in 2019.
The Socialists seek to convince moderate voters by stoking fears that the center-right will partner with Chega at the national level, thus expanding an agreement between the PSD and the far-right party in the regional parliament of the Azores Islands.
“This election … will be a choice between the progressive and pro-European center and the center left on the one hand and, on the other hand, an unstable, divided and fragmented right which does not exclude reaching out to the extreme. right, like us “I saw in the Azores,” Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva wrote on Monday.
This article has been updated following President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s announcement on Thursday.