Right-wing parties triumph in Portugal

The Democratic Alliance, party that secured the first place, campaigned on promises to boost economic growth through tax cuts and improve unreliable public health and education services.

The center-right opposition party in Portugal won Sunday’s general elections, with support for the far-right populist Chega increasing, making it a decisive factor in the new parliament, according to an exit poll.

The Democratic Alliance (AD), a center-right party, is expected to secure between 83 and 91 seats in the 230-seat parliament, contrasting with the 69 to 77 seats of the ruling Socialists since 2015.

Chega is poised to win between 40 and 46 seats, a significant increase from its previous 12, making it a key player in the new parliament. The new business-friendly party, Liberal Initiative, secured seven to ten seats, giving the right a clear majority.

The Democratic Alliance campaigned on promises to boost economic growth through tax cuts and improve unreliable public health and education services affected by teacher and school worker strikes for higher wages. The party leader, 51-year-old lawyer Luis Montenegro, emphasized the need to turn the page in a final rally in Lisbon.

While ruling out any post-electoral agreement with Chega, other party officials have been more ambivalent. Chega has expressed a desire to be part of a right-wing coalition government in exchange for parliamentary support, and analysts suggest a deal with the anti-system party may be the only way for the Democratic Alliance to govern.

Concerns about immigration have fueled Chega’s rise, as the party calls for stricter immigration controls, tougher measures against corruption, and chemical castration for some sex offenders. André Ventura, Chega’s leader, had urged high voter turnout, emphasizing the importance of elections amid deep demographic and social changes in Portugal.

Chega, established just five years ago, secured its first seat in Portugal’s 230-seat parliament in 2019, becoming the first far-right party to gain representation since a 1974 military coup toppled a decades-long right-wing dictatorship.

The party’s ascent reflects the broader trend of far-right parties gaining ground in Europe, either in government or steadily advancing in countries like Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Germany.

The elections were called after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, 62, unexpectedly resigned in November following an influence-peddling investigation, even though he was not charged. During his tenure, unemployment decreased, the economy grew by 2.3 percent last year, and public finances improved.

However, polls indicate that many voters feel Costa’s government squandered the absolute majority it won in 2022 by not improving public services or addressing a housing crisis, leading to significant street protests in one of Western Europe’s poorest countries.

The new Socialist leader, former infrastructure minister Pedro Nuno Santos, 46, argued that the Socialist Party was a “safe harbor” and warned that the right would have to cut pensions and other social expenses to fund promised tax cuts.

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