Incumbent Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s Socialist Party won a general election marked by low turnout on Sunday after presiding over a period of solid economic growth following years of austerity.
The Socialist Party (PS) took 36.65 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right Social Democrats (PSD) with 27.9 percent, near-total results from the Portuguese Ministry of Internal Administration showed.
That left the PS, which has governed for the past four years with the support of two smaller hard-left parties, with 106 seats in the 230-seat parliament, up from 86 seats in the outgoing assembly and just 10 seats short of an outright majority.
Four seats still must be attributed, according to the results of votes cast abroad.
The election bucks the trend of declining center-left fortunes and the rise of far-right populist forces seen elsewhere in Europe.
A new far-right formation, Chega! or “That’s Enough!” entered parliament for the first time, but it won a single seat.
Turnout was 54.5 percent, the lowest level for a general election since Portugal returned to democracy after a decades-long right-wing dictatorship was toppled in 1974.
The question now is who Costa, 58, will pick as his allies.
After the last general election in 2015 in which the PS finished second, Costa convinced the Communist Party and Left Bloc to support a minority PS government, an unprecedented alliance that foes nicknamed the “geringonca,” or odd contraption.
During his victory speech Costa said he wanted to “renew this experience” of an alliance with the hard-left.
“The election shows that the Portuguese like the ‘geringonca,’ they like this political solution,” he said as supporters chanted: “Victory!”
“Stability is essential for Portugal’s international credibility and for attracting investors,” Costa said. “The PS will strive to find solutions that ensure this stability for the entire legislature.”
The Left Bloc, which won 19 seats just as in the last election, and the Communists, which won 12 seats, five fewer than in the last polls, said they were willing to once again back the PS.
A strengthened PS has more alternatives to get laws approved in parliament, political analyst Pedro Norton told public television broadcaster RTP.
“This is an incentive for it to govern alone, by searching for ad hoc agreements” to govern instead of forming a formal agreement, he added.
The election gave Costa another potential governing partner as the upstart People-Animals-Nature party, which has backed his budgets in the past, won four seats, up from just one.
Retired municipal worker Antonio Tavares, 76, said he voted for the PS, because the government raised pensions by 50 to 100 euros (US$55 to US$110) per month.
“It’s not a lot, it should be more, but that allows one to live more comfortably,” he said after casting his ballot in Lisbon.
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