Portugal: Voters didn’t go with useful voting, far-right biggest winner

  • Lusa
  • 11 March 2024

The Portuguese didn't respond to the calls for a useful vote in Sunday's legislative elections, resulting in the "most fragmented parliament ever" and with Chega being the "big winner".

The Portuguese didn’t respond to the calls for a useful vote in Sunday’s legislative elections, resulting in the “most fragmented parliament ever” and with Chega being the “big winner”, according to political experts consulted by Lusa.

It’s a result that shows that the Portuguese didn’t respond to the call for a useful vote and decided to vote sincerely because we have the most fragmented parliament ever. We have to look back to 1985 to have an election in which PS and PSD together had less than 64%,” political scientist Marina Costa Lobo told Lusa.

At a time when the results have not yet been finalised, with the results of the emigration constituencies still to be determined, the researcher from the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon (ICS-UL) pointed out that it is not yet known if, for example, the Democratic Alliance (PSD, CDS-PP and PPM) comes first, whether it will have more votes and more seats than a “left-wing geringonça”. “This opens up enormous uncertainty, a period of uncertainty not only in terms of instability, but also in terms of forming a government,” she pointed out.

Marina Costa Lobo emphasised that Sunday’s election was very well attended and, unlike what happened in 2022, when the PS won an absolute majority due to the “useful vote to prevent a right-wing majority”, this time they decided to “give politicians and parliamentarians back the ability to form alliances”, which “will depend not only on who forms the government but also on the action of the President of the Republic and the action of the parties”.

The political scientist pointed out that more than a million Portuguese voted for Chega, which has become a “consolidated force that will condition the work of the Assembly of the Republic“, and it remains to be seen whether the PS and PSD will support each other by standing up” to André Ventura’s party, isolating it, “or whether a path will be taken to reinforce left/right bipolarisation, in the sense of leaving the PSD to Chega and not building bridges between left and right”.

As for Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s role, Marina Costa Lobo considered that if the PS wins in terms of mandates, it will be “a very big disappointment for the President of the Republic” and, with regard to Chega, the Head of State “will do everything possible to create a central bloc understanding” that excludes that party.

António Costa Pinto, a researcher at ICS-UL, considered that “Chega is the big winner of the night”, which managed not only to grow but to structure itself in national terms due to the homogeneous nature of the national distribution of the mandates obtained “and for having conditioned a victory for AD”.

As for government formation scenarios, the researcher believes that the most likely is for AD to form a coalition government with the Liberal Initiative, assuming that the PSD/CDS-PP/PPM coalition has more MPs than the PS.

Portugal is used to having minority governments here. The novelty effect is Chega, which is, in fact, an anti-system party that has grown a lot,” emphasised António Costa Pinto, predicting that a negative coalition of the left is unlikely in the short term if AD has more MPs and, together with IL, more parliamentary seats than the left.