MADRID

Portugal’s ruling Socialist party (PS) won early legislative elections Sunday, according to exit polls.

According to initial projections by Portuguese broadcaster RTP, the PS, led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa, won between 102-116 seats in the 230-seat parliament with 37%-42% of the vote compared with between 27%-35% for the center-right opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD).

The PS reportedly won by a close margin compared to the elections in 2019, but as it is not expected to secure an outright majority in parliament, it needs to find support from other parties.

Increasing its votes as expected, the far-right Chega (Enough) party could become the third largest party with 5%-8% of the vote.

The Portuguese cast their vote for the 17th time in the history of the democracy following the Carnation Revolution, which ended the dictatorship on April 25, 1974.

While 21 political parties took part in the elections to elect 230 deputies in parliament, nine parties were expected to grab the majority of seats.

The current seat distribution in parliament is as follows: Socialist party (PS) 108 (36.34%), Social Democratic Party 79 (27.76%), the Left Bloc 19 (9.52%), Communist Party and Greens Alliance Unitarian Democratic Coalition 12 (6.33%), Social Democratic Center 5 (4.22%), People, Animals and Nature 4 (3.32%), Chega 1 (1.29%), Liberal Initiative 1 (1.29%) and Free-Livre 1 (1.09%).

The PS, which has been in power since November 2015, could not pass the 2022 budget in parliament as it could not convince the left and communist parties that supported the minority government from outside.

Low turnout

Voter turnout was expected to be low due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 1 million people, equivalent to 10% of the country’s population, are in home quarantine due to COVID-19.

Turnout was 48.57% in the last elections held in 2019, which fell to 40% in the presidential elections in January 2021. The Portuguese press estimated that this rate is at risk of falling further.

Some 300,000 people, including the prime minister, had already voted at ballot booths set up on Jan. 23 in some big cities such as Lisbon and Porto to boost participation.

A total of 10.8 million voters are registered.

Costa, 60, who has been prime minister for six years, will go down in history as the country’s longest-serving premier since the Carnation Revolution.

Rui Rio, 64, the former mayor of Porto, has been leading the PSD since 2018 and wants to bring his party to power.

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