Wednesday, February 28

Portugal’s far right set to play a key role after snap elections | Portugal

Portugal is voting in an early general election that is unlikely to result in a majority government but could see the far-right Chega party become the third-largest group in parliament.

Sunday’s election was activated in december after the long-standing agreement between Prime Minister António Costa’s minority socialist government and its allies in the Portuguese Communist Party and the Left Bloc broke down during negotiations to pass the 2022 budget.

The unlikely alliance, known as the lowoncaor makeshift solution, finally collapsed when the communists and the Left Bloc joined right-wing parties in rejecting the budget bill after weeks of tense negotiations.

The election, held two years ahead of schedule, will delay approval of a spending program to use €45bn (£38bn) of EU recovery funds to revive the economy amid the protracted pandemic. of covid.

Costa, who has served as prime minister since 2015, had accused his former lowonca partners from behaving irresponsibly by voting against his budget, and he hopes to be able to govern only if he is re-elected.

Despite the seemingly unstable nature of his minority government, Costa has won praise for turning Portugal’s post-crisis economy around, reversing unpopular austerity measures and overseeing one of Europe’s most successful Covid vaccination programs.

“Everyone is realizing how important this election is and how important it is that there be a solid victory that gives stability to the country and generates the consensus and national unity that is essential for us to be able to turn the page of this pandemic”. Costa told a rally in Porto on Friday.

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But recent polls suggest the center-right Social Democrats (SDP) are pulling ahead of the Socialists, although neither party is on track to win an outright majority. Once again, the party that gets the most votes will have to have the support of the smaller parties to govern.

The Socialists pledged to raise the minimum wage in Western Europe’s poorest country from 705 euros (£582) a month to 900 euros, while the PSD promised to cut taxes on corporate profits and personal income.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa (centre) during a rally in Lisbon
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa (centre) during a rally in Lisbon. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Getty Images

According to polls, the Chega party, led by the combative former television soccer expert André Ventura, is gaining more and more support and could overtake the Left Bloc to become the third-largest force in parliament.

Chega’s anti-Roma rhetoric, attacks on benefit recipients and criticism of what he sees as a corrupt elite have begun to strike a chord with many voters.

After winning one seat in the 2019 general election, taking 1.3% of the vote, the party won 11.9% in last year’s presidential election.

While PSD leader Rui Rio has ruled out a coalition with Chega, Ventura’s party could still play a key role in shaping or supporting a PSD government.

If the predictions are correct, Chega could emulate the example of the Spanish far-right party Vox, which has been the third largest party in Congress since November 2019. Vox has not only proven instrumental in the formation of three regional governments in Spain, but has also dragged the country’s conservative Popular Party further to the right.

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On Saturday, Vox leader Santiago Abascal organized a meeting in Madrid of other far-right European politicians, including Marine Le Pen of France and Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

“We are the ones who defend Europe,” Abascal said at the ceremony. “We will not allow the hammer and sickle flag to fly, nor the crescent moon flag, nor the dark flag of global elites.”

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