As Greece goes to the polls, the election campaign in Portugal hots up

PORTUGAL LIsbon -- 04 Jan 2013 -- Supporters of the CGTP trade union march through Chiado to protest at government austerity measures on the day that Portugal's socialist party -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
PORTUGAL Lisbon — 04 Jan 2013 — Supporters of the CGTP trade union march through Chiado in central Lisbon to protest at government austerity measures. Many voters do not like the government’s austerity program — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

by Jonathan Mitchell

LISBON — 20 September, 2015 — As Greeks head of the polls today to vote on whether to continue supporting Syriza, Portugal’s general election campaign is heating up with opinion polls published in the Expresso newspaper giving the Socialist Party – the mainstream left party – a slight lead 1.5% over the PSD and CDS/PP coalition.

Many here are weary of the government austerity program – which has consisted of a lot of cuts to services like health and one of the largest tax hikes in Portuguese history. The Socialist Party is campaigning on an anti-austerity platform – with the shadow of the former leader Jose Socrates (who is currently in prison under corruption charges) hanging over the campaign.

According to the polls published in the Expresso today, some 46.7% of Portuguese believe that Antonio Costa (the leader of the Socialist Party) will be the next prime minister to govern Portugal, against 39.8% who think that Pedro Passos Coelho will retain power.

“Now’s the time to turn the page on austerity,” Costa said. “Our goal is to ease the tax burden.” This may have some resonance with some voters hit hard by the tax regime, analysts say. Some four out of five Portuguese people say they have problems making their income stretch through any given month.

PORTUGAL Lisbon -- 16 Feb 2013 -- Tens of thousands of people are protesting across Portugal against government austerity measures. Pictured here a union leader addresses the crowd in front of the Bank of Portugal -- Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive
PORTUGAL Lisbon — 16 Feb 2013 — Tens of thousands of people are protesting across Portugal against government austerity measures. Pictured here are protestors listening to union leader addresses the crowd in central Lisbon — Picture by Jonathan Mitchell/Atlas Photo Archive

Some analysts say that the ruling coalition may nevertheless get voted back into power, pointing to factors like mass migration and recent economic statistics – which appear to show that the economy is finally growing again after several years of stagnation.

Antonio Garcia Pascual, the Barclays Bank chief economist for Europe, recently told the Financial Times that he sees the elections as a “close call” between the centre-right government coalition and the opposition centre-left Socialists, with the polls seemingly backing him up.

“If we stay on the path we’ve been following, we won’t need any more bailouts,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho stated during a live radio debate last week. Much of the campaign has been relatively dull and Passos Coelho’s campaign largely is based on him being seen to be a safe pair of hands in a difficult time.

The Socialists disagree and say they will lower taxes to stimulate the economy, while adding that training programs and mass migration to countries like the UK, Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and even Guinea Bissau give a distorted picture.

Portugal has some 9.7 million eligible voters – who will elect lawmakers to a four-year term in the 230-seat Parliament in Lisbon on the 4th October, 2015. Many Eurozone watchers will be looking carefully at the result. -ends- approx 500 words

Jonathan Mitchell is based in Lisbon, Portugal and is available for commissions to cover the upcoming polls. If you are looking for stock images, you can find them at Photoshot.com – along with many other news archive pictures from Portugal (and also Live News).

All images and text © 2015 Jonathan Mitchell

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