Victory for the right in Portugal

Henry

The recently concluded parliamentary elections in Portugal brought about a significant swing to the right.

The largest party was the mainstream right-wing Social Democratic Party (which actually compares to the Christian Democratic Parties in Europe, despite its name) which got 29% and 79 seats – a slight improvement on the last election in 2022. Just a short distance behind them, the Socialists finished second, with 28% and 77 seats. However, the Socialists are currently the ruling party and even had an absolute majority of seats, so it was a serious defeat for them.

The big winner is the right-wing party Chega (Enough!) with leader Andre Ventura, who gained fame as a sports commentator in the past. Chega was able to win 18% and 48 seats and almost triple his support. This is all the more remarkable as Chega was only founded in 2019, while the other two parties already have decades of networks of power and influence. Chega did particularly well with young people and relied heavily on social media with his campaign.

Other smaller parties with between one and eight seats were the Liberals, Communists and Greens.

The reason for the socialist government’s defeat and Chega’s success is a serious government corruption scandal over the awarding of contracts for the mining of lithium. This brought down the government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa (who was personally very popular) at the end of last year and an early election therefore had to be held.

Unlike the mainstream opposition, which itself has its own corrupt networks, Ventura and Chega are seen as expendable and have campaigned strongly against corruption. Furthermore, the shortage of housing, poor medical services and insufficient education play a role. Indirectly, all of this is also related to mass immigration of the poor from Africa, which puts great fiscal pressure on the rather poor Portugal. Chega is the only party that addresses these kinds of problems. While masses of poor people are pouring into Portugal, more and more well-educated Portuguese are leaving the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere in the European Union.

However, the formation of a government is complicated by the fact that the leader of the Social Democrats, Luis Montenegro, rules out any coalition with Chega. Portugal is structurally left and was shaped by decades of socialist governments. Right-wing politics is therefore still a new and, for many residents, strange phenomenon. Without Chega, however, no government formation will be possible. Time will tell whether Montenegro does change, perhaps under pressure from members of his party.

Portugal was for a long time one of the last countries in Europe that had no far-right party. This is partly to do with the country’s past of a right-wing dictatorship until 1974, which was followed by a long-lasting left-wing hegemony. However, Chega has no roots in the past and especially for the younger generation, the current problems are more decisive for their voting choices than debates about the past.