Sunday, May 28

Socialists with an advantage in the final stretch of the Portuguese elections

Portugal begins voting early on Sunday in a snap election in which the ruling Socialists appear ahead, although their centre-right rivals have closed the gap.

The polls open at 0800 (0800 GMT) for more than 300,000 people who registered to vote a week before the election date.

The option to vote a week earlier was put in place this year to reduce crowds on Election Day, Jan. 30, due to the pandemic.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who has led two minority Socialist governments since 2015, was scheduled to vote on Sunday.

The snap election was called after the government failed to win support for its 2022 budget from two far-left parties that had been backing it.

It was the first time a budget had been rejected since democracy was restored to Portugal in 1974.

The Socialists have around 38% support against just over 30% for the center-right opposition PSD, which would leave Costa without a clear parliamentary majority, according to a compilation of Radio Renascenca polls.

But more recent polls indicate that the gap has closed, and one of them points to a statistical tie.

Costa has said that if his party turns out to be the most voted but without a majority, he would govern without forming a coalition and will negotiate the support of other parties for each law that is discussed.

Political scientist José Santana Pereira, from the University of Lisbon, said it would be “difficult” for Costa to form a “stable government” without the extreme left.

“It can be anticipated that the current balance of power will be maintained,” he told AFP.