Monday, 5 October 2015

My thoughts on and analysis of the Portuguese election of 2015

Yesterday, Portugal, who like Greece was particularly badly hit by the Great Recession and the machinations of the Troika (if not to the same extent as Greece) held its general election, which was a convincing defeat for the Social Democratic-People's Party government.

Despite the fact that the PDS and PP allied together as they did in European elections last year (their alliance is called Portugal Ahead, abbreviated to PaF), they managed to lose 28 seats, undoing all their gains of 2011 (which they managed as separate parties). Despite subpar polling earlier, the Left Bloc (BE) achieved its best result ever, overtaking the Democratic Unitarian Coalition (a coalition between the Portuguese Communist Party and Portuguese Ecologists) and achieving third place for the first time ever, although the CDU nevertheless added 1 seat from its 2011 total. A new green list, LIVRE/TDA, sadly failed to gain any seats , partly due to PAN (Portugal's animal rights party) obtaining crucial votes from them; PAN was the only party outside the main four to win any seats anywhere in Portugal. It won a seat in Lisbon, electing its first ever MP, Andre Lourenco e Silva. The Earth Party, and its splinter group, the Democratic Republican Party, also did not win representation in the assembly even though each party has one MEP at present.

It is very difficult for minor parties to win seats in the Portuguese Assembly even though there is no electoral threshold for the list-PR seats in any constituency. This is because the 230 seats available in the assembly are very unevenly distributed, with the two largest cities, Lisbon (the capital) electing 47 MPs and Porto (the second largest) electing 39 MPs respectively. The third and fourth largest districts, Braga and Aveiro, elect 19 and 16 MPs each, meaning that just four districts in Portugal elect more than half of its MPs. Many rural districts only elect a few MPs apiece (the districts are based on actual communities and provinces), meanwhile, such as Villa Real and Braganca.

Pedro Passos Coelho's alliance may have fared badly but there is a strong possibility he will remain Prime Minister of Portugal, given that neither leader from the left (Catarina Martins or Jeromino de Sousa) would be prepared to ally with Antonia Costa and the 'Socialist Party' given how badly Portugal was faring under the last Socialist government of Jose Socrates and the major differences between the BE, CDU, and PS. Needless to say, if such a grand coalition forms, or even if the PS gives confidence and supply to the PaF, the results will almost certainly be as disastrous as in other grand coalitions on the continent.

Alan.

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