Portuguese Center-Right Coalition Ends Socialists' 8-Year Reign; Populist Party Soars

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Mar 12, 2024 - 06:45 AM

In the latest demonstration of a broad swing to the political right among the peoples of Europe, a tight parliamentary election in Portugal has ended with the Socialist Party conceding that its 8-year grip on power has ended. A center-right coalition emerged with a thin edge, while a populist, anti-immigration, tough-on-crime party emerged as a major force. 

With 99% of votes tallied, the center-right AD coalition had 79 seats to the Socialists' 77. But the biggest storyline is the phenomenal surge by the populist Chega party, which is suddenly the third-largest in Portugal, despite having been founded less than five years ago. 

via Bloomberg

The AD party won a plurality, but not enough of the 230 total seats to create a new government on its own. Luis Montenegro, who leads the Social Democratic Party -- the largest in the victorious AD coalition -- has repeatedly promised he wouldn't form a ruling coalition with Chega, whose positions he has characterized as “often xenophobic, racist, populist and excessively demagogic” He forcefully reiterated his stance after Sunday's results were posted. "Of course I will keep my word,” said Montenegro. “I would never do such evil to myself, my party and my country as to not fulfill the commitments I made so clearly.”

On the other hand, citing the results, Chega leader Andre Ventura said his party has a rightful place in a new ruling coalition. “We are available to provide a stable government in Portugal,” he said. “AD asked for a majority. Today the Portuguese spoke out and said they want a two-party government from AD and Chega.” 

The Socialist Party could Montenegro box Chega out of the process, by abstaining from a parliamentary vote to form the next government, according to the Financial Times.  However, without Chega, Portugal may be left with a fragile minority government that will likely collapse much sooner than later. "Since Portugal became a democracy 50 years ago, only two minority governments have lasted a full term," write Bloomberg's Joao Lima and Henrique Almeida.

Chega Party leader Andre Ventura on the campaign trail with Portuguese actress Maria Vieira (EPA via Independent)

Fittingly capturing the exasperation of its growing share of the voting public, Chega translates to "Enough." The party has championed tighter rules on immigration, while also promising to slash taxes and boost pension payments. Portugal have been beset by low wages and soaring housing costs -- the latter trend compounded by what Fortune called a "buying frenzy" among wealthy foreigners. Chega's tough-on-crime rhetoric has included promoting chemical castration for certain sex offenders

Chega's Ventura has also stressed the need to rid Portugal of Socialist corruption, a message that resonated all the more when Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned in November amid an investigation of alleged influence-peddling relating to lithium and hydrogen concessions.

African migrants in Lisbon (via Euractiv)

Congratulations for Chega poured in from similar parties across Europe, such as Alternative for Germany, Spain's Vox, Hungary's Fidesz and the Freedom Party of Austria. “The Portuguese are defending their identity and their prosperity, and sweeping away the corrupt socialists!” said Jordan Bardella, president of France's National Rally Party. In January, former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro endorsed Ventura for the office of president. 

Portugal's results have no doubt shaken Europe's establishment, as they further evidence a growing, popular rejection of the leftist agenda. The June 6-9 European Union parliamentary elections could be very interesting...