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Portugal to hold presidential elections

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Portugal to hold presidential elections

Manuel de AlmeidaPool via AP
Photo: Manuel de Almeida via AP

Portuguese citizens will head to the polls today to elect their next president, a largely ceremonial role as head of state.

Portuguese law requires a runoff election to be held if no candidate garners a majority of the total votes, but it is widely expected that incumbent centre-right President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) will replicate his 2016 landslide win.

During de Sousa’s first term, Antonio Costa of the Socialist Party (PS)—the country’s other major party and rival to de Sousa’s PSD—held the prime ministership. Costa’s party was returned to power in the October 2019 parliamentary elections, and despite ideological differences between Costa and de Sousa, their cordial relationship has enabled a relatively productive PS government agenda.

Nevertheless, if de Sousa interprets a convincing victory as a personal mandate, he could assert his political preferences to a greater extent than during his first term, especially given he would be unencumbered by concerns about seeking re-election in 2026. In such a scenario, matters of disagreement between himself and Costa that have been hitherto well-managed could become more partisan, potentially undermining the amicable cross-party relationship that the two have built and frustrating the prosecution of the government’s agenda during a crucial post-COVID recovery period.

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