The Portuguese Social Democratic Party (PSD) has emerged as the winner of the parliamentary elections on Sunday. Despite asking the country for an absolute majority, the result was an unconvincing 40.12%, slightly more than the former party in government, the Socialist Party (PS), with 37.85%.
The fact that two-fifths of the people did not vote, despite adverse weather conditions (rain for most of the day in most of the country), is indicative of the general apathy felt by a large percentage of the Portuguese electorate due to a void between the parties and the people.
Whereas members of parliament receive salaries many times higher than the average, it is also felt that they live in a political biosphere wholly removed from the daily problems of the average citizen.
The PSD government of 1991 to 1995 was fraught with corruption and after six years of PS government, the climate remains “jobs for the boys”. The result of this election is therefore an unconvincing “yes” for the PSD, which will have to form a coalition or at least an agreement with the prickly Paulo Portas, leader of the Popular Party, right of centre.
The Socialist Party, unable to communicate its achievements to the electorate after six years in office, saw its vote decreased from 44% in 1999 TO 37.85%(95 members of parliament, compared to 112), whereas the PSD rose from 32.32% in 1999 to 40.12% (102 members of parliament compared to 80).
For the Communist Party, this election was not a success. The Party fell from third to fourth place, with 6.97% of the vote, as opposed to 9.02% in 1999 and saw its number of members of parliament decrease from 17 to 12. However, the political power base of the Communist party was confirmed in its traditional heartland in the south of the country, where it came second in Setubal and Evora with around 20% of the vote in each district.
The right-wing Popular Party lost one member of parliament (14 as opposed to 15), despite increasing its vote from 8.38 to 8.74%, while the left wing Bloco da Esquerda (Left Block, BE), increased its vote from 2.46% to 2.75% and saw its representation in parliament rise from two members to three.
Portugal is split down the middle between the centre left and centre right. The PSD won in its traditional power bases in the centre-north (Viana do Castelo, Vila Real, Braga, Braganza, Leiria, Aveiro and Viseu), whereas the PS won the main urban centres, and the centre-south district capitals, which had been lost to the PSD in the recent municipal elections (Lisbon, Oporto, Coimbra, Castelo Branco, Evora, Portalegre, Faro, Santarem, Setubal and Beja).
The result is an unconvincing swing away from the PS but not wholeheartedly towards the PSD, a party connected with rampant corruption the last time it was in government.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
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