Far-right Chega surges in Portugal polls, threatening mainstream parties

Portugal’s far-right Chega party closes in on centre-left and centre-right, reflecting a similar trend in other European countries.

A new opinion poll shows that Chega, a far-right party in Portugal, has surged to 21% of the vote ahead of the early election on March 10, challenging the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties, whose popularity has stalled.

The poll, conducted by ISCTE-ICS for SIC TV and Expresso newspaper, revealed that the Socialist Party (PS), which leads the centre-left bloc, had 29% support, but would struggle to remain in power as the right-wing parties would have a majority in parliament.

The centre-right bloc, formed by the newly established Aliança Democratica (AD) – a partnership between the Social Democrats and the conservative CDS-PP – was close behind with 27%.

Chega, a populist and anti-system party that vows to combat corruption and uses the motto “Portugal needs a clean-up”, rose by six points and surpassed 20% for the first time in a poll.

Chega’s rise reflects a similar trend in other European countries, where voters are attracted by nationalist and far-right parties that promise to tighten immigration controls and ease EU climate measures.

In the European Union election in June, far-right parties such as France’s National Rally led by Marine Le Pen, Italy’s League headed by Matteo Salvini and Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) are expected to do well.

Last week, Chega’s leader Andre Ventura told Reuters that his party would seek to join a right-wing coalition government in return for its support in parliament.

The right-wing parties in Portugal, including the pro-market Liberal Initiative with 3% backing, have 53% of the vote share.

However, the political situation is uncertain, as the PSD leader Luis Montenegro has previously rejected any deal with Chega.

The early election was triggered by the resignation of Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Nov. 7, following an inquiry into alleged irregularities in his government’s management of large green investment projects. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In mid-December, Costa was succeeded by Pedro Nuno Santos, a 46-year-old former minister of infrastructure, as the PS leader.

The poll by ISCTE-ICS interviewed 804 people between Jan. 16 and 25, and had a 3.5% margin of error.

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