What do the presidential elections say about Portugal?
Portugal's new president is the old one: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The conservative politician will return to office on a 60.7 percent victory. Commentators interpret the results as the expression of a need for stability and cohesion, which was also reflected in the way the elections went so smoothly. Some journalists cast a concerned eye at the far-right leader André Ventura, who came in third with 11.9 percent.
Craving for warmth
Rebelo de Sousa's calls for community spirit clearly went down well with the voters, the Süddeutsche Zeitung observes:
“No one wants conflict in difficult times. It is typical election behaviour in Portugal, which we also saw during the Eurozone crisis. At the beginning of the six months of the Portuguese EU presidency this message has particular symbolic resonance. People have to help each other in bad times. Rebelo de Sousa also stands for something else that people crave in times of social distancing: warmth and human contact. Two more than appropriate signals that Portugal is sending to Europe now.”
Exemplary citizens, old fashioned system
Diário de Notícias praises the voters - and laments that a truly high level of participation was prevented:
“In an unusual situation, where public health is at risk, the Portuguese behaved considerately, waiting in line, wearing masks, bringing their own pens and maintaining a safe distance. ... But things could have been a lot easier for people if they had been given the option to vote electronically or by mail, and in person - at a polling station of their choice, independently of their place of residence. Three decades into the 21st century, why on earth would the parties insist on maintaining an archaic voting system? Technological instruments that allow for secure voting from anywhere at all have been around for years, and this would certainly have increased voter turnout.”
A shining example
Spain, whose political parties are currently embroiled in a row over whether or not to postpone the Catalan regional elections, can only look with envy at its neighbour, says El País:
“These elections were marked by the extreme gravity of the pandemic, but also by an exemplary climate of political understanding and institutional collaboration. The country has demonstrated once again that it understands how to conduct politics in a way that serves the interests of the citizens far better than the dynamics of radical polarisation that we see in other places in Europe.”
Dangerous rise of the far right
Jornal Económico on the other hand is not celebrating the results of the election:
“Even if he came in third, André Ventura was undoubtedly the second big winner in this election. If [his party] Chega manages to repeat yesterday's results in the parliamentary elections, it will be represented by almost 20 members of parliament. Chega will become an unavoidable force on the right. ... Ventura's rise puts the [social democratic] PSD in a difficult situation: If it wants to get back into power, it will have to decide if it is willing to form an alliance with the far right.”