The Socialist Party (PS) has been in power in Portugal for nine years, the first seven in parliamentary coalition with small left-wing parties and the last two with an absolute majority.

In November last year, the President of the Republic (liberal-conservative) sacked the Socialist Prime Minister, António Costa, for an unproven case of corruption, and rushed to dissolve the National Assembly and call new elections yesterday, 10 March 2024, eager to pass the buck to a government closer to his political sympathies…

The results were as follows (data from this morning, not yet final):

  • The conservative Democratic Alliance (AD) was the party with the most votes, with 29.5% (and 79 MPs), but with little difference to the PS, which got 28.7 per cent (and 77 MPs).
  • However, the third most popular party is clearly far right (CHEGA), with around 18.1 per cent of the vote (and 48 MPs).
  • The National Assembly has a total of 230 members. Therefore, at least 116 MPs are needed to obtain a majority.

Results of these elections:

  1. No party won an absolute majority;
  2. The PS socialists will never get a majority on the left;
  3. The conservatives of AD will only be able to get a majority in parliament if they form a coalition with the extreme right of CHEGA;
  4. For the first time since the fall of fascism in 1974, the two-party system in Portugal appears to be coming to an end, with the far right entering the race in a big way, as in many other European states;
  5. The other four main parties have a relatively small and non-decisive weight in these elections.
  6. They are the Liberal Initiative (IL) and the three parties to the left of the Socialists: The Left Bloc (BE), the Communist Alliance (CDU) and the Free Party (L).

Quo Vadis Portugal?

Since the AD promised before the elections that it would not enter into a coalition with the far-right CHEGA, Portugal is now in a political impasse. The most likely scenarios seem to be: the formation of a minority conservative AD government, which will depend on shifting parliamentary majorities, or even new elections.

The immigration scare is the main hobbyhorse of the CHEGA party, as it is all over the world when it comes to winning easy votes. Recently there has been a large influx of immigrants from Brazil.

The Portuguese economy is doing relatively well, currently growing at around 2%, and the country needs immigrants to maintain its standard of living and respond to the growth of tourism in particular. There is also a large influx of young “digital nomads” who like the quality of life in Portugal and work in international companies that provide them with a good income. This “rich” immigration from abroad increases domestic inflation and thus also contributes to further “chasing away” young Portuguese who work precariously in less “profitable” jobs.

This partly explains why, at the same time, a large proportion of young people (some put the figure at around 1/3!), mostly well-educated young people, are emigrating to other countries, especially in Europe, in search of better wages and better working and living conditions. The minimum wage in Portugal is around 800 euros, the majority of the population earns around half the European average, but the cost of living is as high as abroad, and rents (especially in the cities) are even higher! Portugal also continues to suffer from elite corruption.