The Socialist Party (PS) has prevailed in the number of votes in Portugal but has suffered severe punishment in Lisbon, where the right-wing coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) has taken over the mayor’s office with 34.25% of the votes, compared to 33.30% of the Socialists.
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Late at midnight in Portugal, four hours after the polls closed, there was still no official data that would allow to venture whether the balance will tip in Lisbon for the socialist Fernando Medina -current mayor of the capital- or for the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, former European Commissioner Carlos Moedas. Finally, there has been a difference of just over 2,000 votes between the two parties.
Ruled by the Socialists since 2007, Lisbon has been the great surprise of this electoral day. None of the previous polls doubted Medina’s advantage and the rise of the right in the capital is a serious blow to the party of Prime Minister António Costa, which has been deeply involved in the campaign.
“Today a new cycle begins in Lisbon,” said Moedas after learning of his victory. A cycle, he added, “that does not end here.” The ex-commissioner has become a threat to the Portuguese socialists and an oxygen balloon for the PSD at a delicate moment for its leader, Rui Rio.
The PS has also lost Coimbra, one of its main places, to the right-wing coalition led by the PSD, although the Socialists would keep Almada – south of Lisbon -, the sixth most populous in the country.
In the second great city of the country, Porto, there were no surprises and the independent Rui Moreira will be able to govern for a third and final term.
Election day has been marked by abstention, 46.32%. 99.87% of the votes counted, the PS is consolidated as the most voted force with 34.34%, followed at a distance by the PSD -13.30% -, but the setback of Lisbon has fallen like a jug of water in the socialist ranks, in which the optimism fueled by the pre-election polls had settled in.
On the contrary, the good results in Lisbon and Coimbra represent a respite for the PSD, which has dragged on a crisis for several years and which already reaped its worst results in the 2017 elections, barely 16.08% of the votes.
If confirmed, they could support the leadership of Rui Rio, president of the PSD since 2018, who has repeated on several occasions that for him the municipalities are more important than the legislative ones and whose future at the head of the center-right could depend on the night of this Sunday.
The far-right Chega party has obtained 4.16% of the votes in its first municipal elections. In his last test at the polls, in the presidential elections last January, its leader, André Ventura, was the third most voted candidate with 11.9% of the votes.
In this call he aspired to climb to become the third political force, an ambitious goal that he has not met, being relegated to sixth place.
This Sunday’s election was the first examination at the polls of the post-COVID era. 308 town halls and other local bodies are renewed for the next four years, in which the councilors will be responsible for “spending a large part of the money from the budgets and European funds” to face the economic and social situation after the pandemic, as the Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, recalled after voting.
The electoral appointment found the country with 85% of the population already with the complete vaccination schedule and about to lift most of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
This Sunday, two deaths from COVID-19 were reported, a minimum since July 6, and 599 infections, the third lowest figure in three months, only surpassed by the data of two Mondays (when infections are usually lower because the end less tests are done). The incidence at 14 days is 127.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
With this situation, the Portuguese do not believe that the pandemic was decisive to go or not to vote: “The effect will be null”, a voter anticipated to EFE after depositing his ballot in a school in the center of Lisbon this Sunday.