Legislative elections | Portugal in the campaign against the challenge of the far right

(Lisbon) Portugal, which officially entered the campaign on Sunday for the legislative elections of March 10, could swing to the right thanks to a surge by anti-system populists after eight years of socialist government interrupted by an affair of influence peddling.

Having become central due to the circumstances of the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is not a candidate for re-election, “the theme of corruption, in this European situation, favors the radical right”, notes political scientist Antonio Costa Pinto , from the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (ICS).

Several European Union countries, including Italy, Slovakia, Hungary and Finland, are led by coalitions including a far-right party in their ranks. The Netherlands could join this list after Geert Wilders’ victory in the November legislative elections.

In Portugal, which in April will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution and the end of a fascist dictatorship almost as long, the far right took longer than elsewhere to shake up the political landscape, but the theory of a Lusitanian exception is now ruled out.


Andre Ventura, president of Chega training

The young Chega party (“Enough” in Portuguese) founded in 2019 by a former football commentator who became the slayer of the political-economic elites is credited with 15 to 20% of voting intentions.

” No is no ”

In the legislative elections of January 2022, this anti-immigration but not anti-European formation had already been propelled to the rank of third political force by obtaining 7.2% of the votes and twelve elected in a Parliament of 230 seats.

Its president André Ventura, member of the Identity and Democracy group with the French National Rally or the Alternative for Germany, now hopes to challenge the hegemony of the Social Democratic Party (PSD, center right) within the Portuguese right which, as a whole, should become the majority.

Led by Luis Montenegro, the main opposition party, however, remains better placed than Chega in the polls, where it appears with scores of around 30% and a slight advantage over the Socialist Party (PS).

As the vote approaches, the main questions are whether the center right will actually come out on top and to what extent it will depend on Chega’s support to govern.

Mr. Montenegro, who is running in the name of the Democratic Alliance (AD) forged with two small conservative parties, has already ruled out any agreement with the far right, hoping to form a stable majority with the help of the Liberal Initiative (LI).

“No, it’s no,” he repeated each time the question was asked.

Series of scandals

Mr. Costa’s successor at the head of the Socialists, Pedro Nuno Santos, has already considered not obstructing the formation of a center-right minority government.

But, according to analyst Antonio Costa Pinto, “the cordon santé against the radical right does not work in European democracies, and Portugal will be another example”.

“This crisis was caused by a charge by the judicial system against the political elite, which presents very significant ethical problems,” he explains.


Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s record is marred by scandals.

In power since the end of 2015, Antonio Costa won a historic victory in the legislative elections of January 2022, but his first absolute majority proved to be very unstable.

Despite a record marked by the consolidation of public finances and relative good economic health, its executive succumbed to a series of scandals and resignations.

The final blow was delivered by an investigation into influence peddling targeting one of his ministers and his own chief of staff, who had 75,800 euros in cash hidden in the shelves of his office.

Himself implicated by the Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Costa resigned at the beginning of November, specifying that he would not seek a new mandate.

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