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Portugal’s ruling Socialists win snap election with absolute majority

Portugal’s ruling Socialists won the country’s parliamentary election on Sunday with an absolute majority after voters penalised the far-left parties that triggered the snap poll.

The centre-left Socialist party (PS) led by António Costa, prime minister, was polling at almost 42 per cent of the vote with only two per cent of voting districts yet to be counted, against 28 per cent for the centre-right opposition.

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist prime minister, congratulated Costa on his victory, saying the result would help the Iberian neighbours “deliver a socialist response” to Europe’s challenges.

Costa said his party would win at least 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, only its second absolute majority in almost 50 years of democracy. “Portugal has voted for stability, certainty and security,” he said in a victory speech.

Rui Rio, leader of the centre-right Social Democrats (PSD), the main opposition party, conceded defeat, saying he had telephoned Costa to offer his congratulations.

The election result marked a significant turnround for the PS after polls had forecast a much tighter race.

The far-left partners that brought down Costa’s minority government suffered heavy losses, apparently punished by voters for precipitating the snap election.

The anti-capitalist Left Bloc (BE) and the old-guard Communist party (PCP) triggered a political crisis by voting against Costa’s 2022 budget. But they were overtaken in the election by two rightwing parties.

Chega, a far-right populist party, was elected the third-largest political force with about 7 per cent of the vote, followed by the Liberal Initiative in fourth place, with close to five per cent.

Costa, whose success in overturning austerity measures while maintaining fiscal rigour has encouraged Europe’s centre-left, has said he would not put deficit targets at risk under pressure from leftwing partners.

Turnout was above 57 per cent, up from the previous election in 2019, even though Sunday’s vote was held amid peak Covid-19 infection rates. More than 800,000 voters, about eight per cent of the electorate, are in isolation.

People in official isolation were permitted to vote in person, with a recommendation to cast their ballots during the hour before polls closed. “We have to show that nothing and nobody can stop us,” Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, said in a televised address urging people to vote.

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