The Progressive Post

In Portugal, a new cycle with old problems

Member of the European Parliament and Head of the Portuguese S&D Delegation

With this very close result, there will be a new political cycle in Portugal. While the Socialists will lead a strong and determined opposition, we see the possibility of old problems resurfacing in our country. The rise of the extreme right, populism and threats to fundamental rights must be fought.

In the Portuguese parliamentary elections, which took place last Sunday, the centre-right alliance won with a very narrow margin of votes. They received 79 seats in Parliament – 77 by the PSD (EPP) and 2 from CDS (EPP as well) – while the Socialist Party got 77 seats. The Socialists received almost 30 per cent of the votes, virtually the same as the centre-right alliance, as we are less than 50.000 votes behind them at the moment of writing, in a country of more than 6 million voters. The far-right party (Chega) got 48 seats (quadrupling their previous result) and is now the third largest party in parliament. 

These results indicate that the centre right parties have not been able to gain back a clear leadership position in Portugal. In fact, there is a fragmentation of the political spectrum. The Parliament will now have nine different parties, divided in three distinct blocks: the left and centre-left parties, the centre-right parties and the far right. This result can partially be explained by the 30-year record inflation and the related increase in the interest rates, which strongly affected families’ incomes and created much dissatisfaction. The populist and demagogic speech and proposals of the far-right leader André Ventura also contributed to these results. Chega continues to apply in Portugal the same tactics used by extreme-right politicians in many other parts of the world. With the support from Bolsonaro, Le Pen and Salvini, among others, the far-right is about to become a very dangerous problem in Portugal.

With this result, eight years of Socialist rule in Portugal, under António Costa’s leadership, ended. During this period, we saw many progressive policies implemented, like the increase of the minimum wage and reinforcement of key social policies, as well as a significant improvement in the country’s financial resilience. Now, as the Socialist Party leader, Pedro Nuno Santos, said, we are ready to lead the Portuguese opposition and committed to winning back the trust of Portuguese voters. This new cycle for our party will be focused on defending the progress achieved during the last few years and understanding why so many of our citizens are unsatisfied with the political system and how we can fight the rise of populist messages that gained the support of a record number of voters.

In Europe, this result will unfortunately lead to the loss of one Socialist representative in the Council and the nomination of a commissioner by an EPP government, in the aftermath of the European elections of June. In parallel to the rise of the extreme right MEPs from Portugal in the European Parliament, this reduced of representation from our political family is a serious loss. 

The threats to fundamental rights, which are constantly exerted by far-right parties, represent a step back from our social victories. We must be prepared to fight against these threats. In many countries, women are already being targeted by unfair laws that aim at taking back many of their acquired rights. Misogynistic, homophobic and racist ideas are taking hold in some sectors of our society, and we must understand reasons of these trends, as well as be ready to counteract them. The Portuguese Socialists Party is united in this goal and will start this new cycle with a renewed energy to continue defending our values. Together with our European partners we will be a strong voice for those who want a socially just world, a fair and resilient economy and a strong and democratic society.

Photo Credits: Partido Socialista

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