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Portugal - Election - 04 October 2015

Passos CoelhoPortugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva announced on 22 July 2015 that the country's next parliamentary elections would be held on 04 October 2015. In his speech, he outlined the desire for the forthcoming government to hold a clear parliamentary majority, with the vote seen as boiling down to a choive between pursuing existing austerity policies or an easing of efforts to cut the country's budget deficit.

The ruling center-right Portugal Alliance coalition, comprising PSD and CDSPP, held 132 seats in Portugals 230-seat Assembly of the Republic, followed by the PS with 74 seats. The rest were allocated among the United Democratic Coalition at 16 seats and the Left Bloc at eight.

Portugal exited the bailout scheme in May 2014, but only after harsh austerity measures and the biggest tax hikes in living memory. The jobless rate fell to 12 percent from a peak of 17.5 percent at the beginning of 2013. But the recovery had yet to be felt on the streets. One in five Portuguese continue to live below the poverty line with an annual income of less than 5,000 euros ($5,600).

Election campaigns in Portugal mean two weeks of hustle and bustle in the streets and in restaurants: kisses for the kids and elderly ladies in the crowd, exchanging jokes with the fish sellers in the market halls and long meals punctuated with speeches to party supporters. The media is always on hand; for the politicians, it's more about cutting a good figure, and less about their political program.

Portugal seemed set to register one of the lowest election turnouts since the transition to democracy in 1974, with voters turned off by the lack of choice or abandoning the country to try their luck elsewhere. Participation in Portugal had been falling ever since the almost bloodless Carnation Revolution brought democracy to the country in 1974. In the first election after the dictatorship a record 91.5 percent of voters turned up, by 2011 it was just 58.1 percent.

The governing center-right coalition of the Social Democrats (PSD) and the right-wing People's Party (CDS-PP) was keen to stress its main achievement: that it ended the EU bailout program and led Portugal out of the financial crisis. The center-left Socialists (PS), however, counter that the crisis was not yet over. They argue that the costs of the highly controversial austerity program have hit the people far too hard and the middle class is now much worse off.

Opinion polls predicted a neck-and-neck race between the governing coalition and PS. It was possible that both groups could fall short of an absolute majority in the next parliament. That would work to the advantage of left-leaning parties, as the opposing major sides ruled out a grand coalition. But cooperating with the extremely dogmatic Communists or the populist Bloco da Esquerda would require concessions that the Socialists were unlikely to make.

The ruling center-right coalition won a general election widely seen as a referendum on its austerity policies, but it lost its absolute majority in parliament. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's "Portugal Ahead" coalition took 38.6 percent of the vote, according to the partial results, against 32.4 percent the opposition Socialists of former Lisbon mayor Antonio Costa. The victory by the center-right, after four years of austerity that sent unemployment and emigration soaring, marked a rare case of a bailed-out country re-electing its government.

But the coalition between the premier's Social Democrats and the conservative Popular Party fell short of the 116 seats needed to control the 230-seat chamber, leaving them outnumbered by the Socialists and MPs from smaller leftist parties. The Left Bloc, the sister party of Greece's anti-austerity Syriza, looked on course for its best-ever result of 10.2 percent of the vote and 19 seats, up from its previous score of eight.

Socialist leader Antonio Costa conceded defeat, but warned that the government must change its conduct now that it has lost its outright majority in Parliament. "The government has to understand that things are different now," Costa said, adding that he would not seek to make the country ungovernable.

Pedro Passos Coelhos designation on 23 October 2013 as Prime Minister was laced with defeat after Portugals legislative elections. He lost his absolute majority and so found himself in a position of weakness. His center-right government may be short-lived, even with the blessing of President Anbal Cavaco Silva.

The president justified his reattribution of the prime ministers role to Coelho as traditional. He said: In 40 years of Portuguese democracy, the responsibility of forming the government has always been handed over to those who have won the elections. President Anibal Cavaco Silva believed Passos Coelho was better for Portugal than the alternative. Even if the government formed by the winning coalition might not fully assure the political stability the country needs, I consider much more serious, the financial, economic and social consequences of an inconsistent alternative suggested by other political parties, Cavaco Silva said in a televised speech.

The leader of the Socialist party, Antnio Costa, did not accept this. He was in a position to form a government with the far left. Costa warned: It is incomprehensible to nominate a prime minister who the president already knows does not have and will not have the conditions to form a majority in parliament.

Portugals pro-austerity government was forced to resign 10 November 2015 by a leftist anti-austerity block, despite being sworn in only two weeks earlier. Proposals to continue austerity policies were blocked in parliament, backed by mass public anger, forcing the government to dissolve. The moderate Socialists worked with the Communist Party and radical Left Bloc to form a majority that voted down fresh austerity proposals. While the socialist party has argued it will respect the policies of the Eurozone, the PS will now be working with two parties that want to repeal pro-market reforms. In fact, the communist party has openly campaigned to leave the Euro.

On 11 February 2016, Portugals parliament confirmed its approval for two bills vetoed by the president, Anbal Cavaco Silva, on 25 January 2016 - one on adoption of children by same-sex couples and the other amending the law on abortion. When Parliament votes to pass legislation for a second time after a presidential veto, the president is then obliged under the countrys constitution to promulgate the law.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won presidential election with 52% of the vote in 24 January 2016. Portugals new center-right president was inaugurated on 09 March 2016. Rebelo de Sousa took over from Anbal Cavaco Silva and will remain in office until 2021. He is Portugal's fifth President since the 1974 Revolution.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa took office amid increasing EU pressure on the government to further reign in spending to meet budget goals.Considered a moderate, he is a former leader of the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) in opposition to the ruling Socialist Party (PS). A career politician, he has been a government minister, a professor of law, a journalist, an author and a prominent political pundit.

Although the office of President of Portugal is limited mostly to symbolic ceremonial duties, he plays an important role at times of political uncertainty.

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