Portugal’s Socialist Party won the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday with a clear majority. The Socialist Party secured over 41% of the popular vote in snap elections triggered by lawmakers’ rejection of the minority government’s spending bill two months ago. The Socialist Party edged out the next most-popular group, the Social Democratic Party, to gain control of Parliament.
Before this election, the Socialists relied on a coalition of left-leaning parties to enact legislation. The Left Bloc and Communist/Green coalition lent their support to Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s legislation until November 2021, when the three split over public health funding. The coalition was unable to agree on the annual budget, leaving them at an impasse and leaving President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to dissolve the government.
News outlets in Portugal remarked that the voter turnout for the election was surprisingly high. Approximately 58% of the population turned out to vote, almost 9% higher than in the 2019 elections. Portugal introduced early voting to allow citizens to cast their ballot last Sunday so some people could minimize their contact with others amid the ongoing global medical situation.
The Socialist Party earned significant gains during the election. In 2019, the party secured only 36% of the vote. This time, the ascendant political group received over 41% of the vote, a 5% increase in just over 2 years. Costa’s gamble seems to have paid off–the party now controls a substantial plurality of the government.
In 2019, Portugal’s Socialists secured only 108 seats. They now hold 117 seats of the 230-seat legislature. That puts them one ahead of the 116 number required to call them the majority party.
“The Socialist Party’s strategy that triggered the snap election seems to have worked out fine: the two parties on the left were punished, the main opposition party did not benefit from it as [Social Democratic Leader] Rui Rio and the main opposition PSD expected,” writes political commentator Miguel Szymanski.
Smaller left-wing parties, like the Left Bloc, suffered on Sunday. In 2019, the Left Bloc secured nearly 10% of the vote. This time, the group earned roughly half that–only just over 4% of the vote. The Bloc won only five seats in the assembly, while the Communist and Green Coalition earned six seats.
The left-wing opposition lost considerable political clout by breaking with the Socialist Party. “One of the main reasons for the snap election was that there are many EU billions to be spent over the next years and the government wants to keep control of that mother of all piles of money,” Szymanski stated. “Neither the prime minister nor the president wanted far-left parties to have a strong saying on how to spend the money from Brussels.”