PM Costa's Socialists win in Portugal

Prime Minister António Costa's Socialist Party (PS) has won Portugal's parliamentary elections with 37 percent of the vote, but fell short of the absolute majority it had hoped for, meaning it will need the support of other parties. Commentators discuss how Costa secured the voters' support and what challenges he faces.

Open/close all quotes
El Mundo (ES) /

A triumph for ideology-free pragmatism

Costa is successful above all because he has largely freed himself of left-wing ideology, explains El Mundo:

“The Portuguese are backing the pragmatism displayed by the left. Setting aside unrealistic plans and unworkable populist demands, for the past four years Portugal has pursued a very orthodox economic policy under Brussels' tutelage that saved the country from complete bankruptcy. Major cutbacks, tax hikes for the middle class and tax relief for foreign investors have propelled the Portuguese miracle. However the debt burden is enormous, and economic imbalances give cause for concern, with Lisbon already showing the first symptoms of recession.”

Népszava (HU) /

Europe's social democrats recovering

Népszava sees the Portuguese election results as boding well for European social democracy:

“The elections in Portugal on Sunday confirmed that after a crisis period of around ten years the socialist and social democratic parties in Europe are showing ever stronger signs of a revival. In Finland and then in Denmark they won the parliamentary elections, and in Spain they have every chance of winning. ... Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa took a chance with a risky economic policy when he formed a minority government in 2015. But he was so successful that he served as a model for the Spanish socialists, for example.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Election winners looking for backers

Costa's Socialists have little scope to test new alliances, writes Diário de Notícias:

“The poor performance of the communists and the left-wing bloc has weakened their bargaining position and prevents them from achieving their own goals in an alliance with the Socialists. ... But the Socialists' results don't allow them to seek new partners for a stable majority, because the five members of the PAN [Party for Animal and Nature Conservation] and the [left-wing green party] Livre won't secure a new majority in parliament. An agreement with the [conservative-liberal] PSD would, except in certain exceptional cases, be suicide for both parties.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

The silent protest of those left behind

For Deutschlandfunk the low turnout is cause for concern:

“This result simply shows that almost half of the population mistrusts the political class and that there is an immense disenchantment with politics. Above all among those Portuguese who have been left out - who have seen little of the benefits of the upswing of the past four years and live on a minimum wage of just 600 euros. While in Spain and Greece people took to the streets during the crisis and loudly denounced the conditions in their countries, the Portuguese protest silently - through mass abstention from elections, for example. This shows that not everything is wonderful yet in Portugal after all.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A role model for Europe's left

NRC Handelsblad explains the Socialists' election victory:

“The Costa government turned the EU's problem child into a model nation for socialists from other European countries. ... In these times of Brexit, rising populism, unpredictable terrorism and separatism in Catalonia, Portugal is a balanced nation where foreign guests feel at home. ... The Socialists played a risky game by rejecting new austerity measures, but their gamble paid off and an unexpected miracle occurred. The economy gained momentum, also thanks to investment, unemployment dropped and both the budget deficit and public debt have also decreased.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

PM has achieved stability in his country

Prime Minister Costa personally contributed to the election victory, writes El Periódico de Catalunya:

“His negotiating skills in parliament have brought the country stability, given him prestige in Brussels and allowed him to remain in office until the end of the legislative period. To sum up, his policies have been accepted by voters without much in the way of counter-arguments. ... Naturally Portugal still has a long way to go because it has yet to repay the 50 billion euros in crisis bailouts to Brussels. But Costa has achieved his goal: although he fell short of the absolute majority he wanted, he at least has enough leeway to forge a coalition to his liking.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Hard times ahead

The real problems are just beginning for António Costa, writes La Repubblica:

“The 'soft' austerity course that led Portugal out of the crisis without busting the national budget will now face its toughest test, namely the economic downturn across the entire Old Continent. The 58-year-old leader of the Socialist Party can open the champagne now: the election result allows him to choose his government partners and at least on paper the next executive looks much more robust than the previous one. ... But Costa now lacks one of his key allies: the brilliant economic situation that since 2015 has guaranteed Lisbon the billions it needed to 'turn the tide'.”