Portugal's Democratic Alliance Claims Victory Amid Far-Right Surge

Portugal's Democratic Alliance Claims Victory Amid Far-Right Surge

 

In a closely contested parliamentary election in Portugal, the centre-right Democratic Alliance, led by Luis Montenegro, has claimed victory against the backdrop of a significant surge in support for the far-right Chega party. With almost 99% of the votes counted, both the Democratic Alliance and the Socialist party find themselves with a share of 28.67% each, with Chega securing the third position at 18%.

The election unfolded against the resignation of socialist Prime Minister António Costa in November, prompted by an investigation into alleged illegalities related to large green investment projects. Costa, who had been in office since 2015, emphasized that the duties of a prime minister are incompatible with any suspicion of integrity, even though he has not been accused of any crime.

Luis Montenegro, addressing his supporters after the partial official results, reiterated his commitment not to rely on Chega to govern or engage in any deals with the populist party. Despite this stance, the question remains whether the Democratic Alliance can form a government without the support of Chega.

Pedro Nuno Santos, the leader of the Socialist party, conceded defeat and congratulated the Democratic Alliance on its victory. The election marks a significant success for Chega, founded five years ago by André Ventura, a former TV football pundit who was once a rising star in the Social Democratic party (PSD). Chega, which attracted 1.3% of the vote and gained its first MP in 2019, has now secured 7.2% of the vote and won 12 seats.

The far-right party's growth reflects broader dissatisfaction with mainstream left and right parties in Portugal, as the country grapples with a housing crisis, stressed healthcare and education systems, and low wages. Chega's campaign focused on addressing these concerns and combating political corruption, with billboards across the country proclaiming, "Portugal needs a clean-up."

Despite Montenegro's explicit rejection of collaboration with Chega due to its leader Ventura's perceived "often xenophobic, racist, populist, and excessively demagogic" views, the Democratic Alliance may face internal pressure to consider such an alliance for the sake of governing stability.

The election results have sparked debates about the potential role of Chega in the new government. Even with support from the smaller centre-right Liberal Initiative, a potential minority government led by the Democratic Alliance may still depend on Chega's support to pass legislation. Portugal's president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, has broken with the convention of presidential neutrality, stating his intention to prevent Chega from reaching office.

Ventura responded to the president's comments, emphasizing that in Portugal, voters, not the president, choose the government. This underlines the ideological differences and tensions surrounding the potential involvement of the far-right party in the government.

As the night unfolded, European far-right leaders were quick to express support for Chega's success. Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain's Vox party, congratulated Ventura and Portuguese supporters. Maximilian Krah, Alternative for Germany's leader in the European parliament, hailed Chega's progress as a "fantastic success." In France, Jordan Bardella, the president of National Rally, praised the Portuguese people for defending their identity and prosperity.

The Socialists, who had hoped that the threat of the far right moving closer to government would rally centrist voters, faced a decline in performance compared to previous years. The Democratic Alliance presented itself as a vehicle for change after eight years of socialist rule, promising economic growth through tax cuts and improvements to public services.

The election occurred amidst ongoing scandals impacting the Socialists, including an investigation into the handling of green investment projects and the impending trial of former Prime Minister José Sócrates over allegations of financial impropriety during his time in power.

The PSD, a key component of the Democratic Alliance, is also facing corruption allegations, with two prominent party officials in Madeira resigning amid a graft investigation. These corruption issues have contributed to the anti-establishment sentiment, providing an opening for parties like Chega to gain traction.

In summary, Portugal's recent election has marked a pivotal moment with the Democratic Alliance claiming victory but facing the challenge of navigating potential alliances with the surging far-right Chega party. The outcome reflects a broader shift in political dynamics, driven by dissatisfaction with mainstream parties and concerns about corruption and socio-economic issues. The coming days will reveal how the new government shapes up and whether the Democratic Alliance can maintain stability without succumbing to internal pressures regarding the inclusion of Chega in the political landscape.


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