Portugal re-elects president despite low turnout

Center-right politician won landslide victory with 60.7% of votes

Portugal re-elects president despite low turnout

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has been re-elected for a second term after voters went to the polls on Sunday amid a strict lockdown.

The center-right politician won a landslide victory by garnering 60.7% of the votes.

Ana Gomes, the socialist candidate, won second place with just under 13%.

Rebelo de Sousa’s victory came as little surprise, though high levels of abstention did threaten to take the election into a second round.

Despite record low turnout for a presidential election – just 45% of the electorate voted – he managed to comfortably pass the 51% threshold needed for his election.

Portugal has one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates. Each day over the past week, the country has shattered its previous record for most deaths in a day.

On Sunday, another 275 more people lost their lives to the disease in the country of just over 10 million.

For 11 days, the country has been under strict lockdown where no one is allowed to leave home for non-essential purposes. 

While Portuguese voters widely opted for Rebelo de Sousa’s re-election, the polls marked the first major breakthrough for the country’s far-right party Chega.

Its candidate Andre Ventura won nearly 12% of the popular vote, up from 1.3% in Portugal’s 2019 general elections.

Ventura, whose platform rests largely on anti-immigrant sentiment and a rally against left, said Sunday’s vote marked a historic shift in Portugal.

“For the first time a self-declared anti-system party broke the traditional right-wing spectrum,” he said during his declaration.

“All the right-wing leaders told me that Portugal was asleep, that the true right would never breakthrough, but today in Spain, Germany, Italy and France, all these leaders are rejoicing for what we achieved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rebelo de Sousa said in his victory speech that his “first mission is to combat the pandemic.”

Portugal’s president does not have legislative powers but is able to dissolve the parliament and call fresh general elections.

Portugal’s Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who has worked harmoniously with Rebelo de Sousa despite their ideological differences “warmly” congratulated the president on his victory Monday.