Portugal held its presidential election on Sunday with the average incumbent candidate strongly favoured to win a second five-year time period whereas COVID-19 instances reached file ranges.
Voters queued up as polls opened within the Lisbon parish of Santo Antonio, guided by pink stickers on the bottom marking the two-metre (six-foot) hole.
“I’m right here among the many first to keep away from teams and queues,” Cristina Queda, 58, stated as she waited. “Because the date of the elections wasn’t modified, I made a decision to return early to keep away from that scenario.”
The pinnacle of state in Portugal has no legislative powers, which lie with parliament and the federal government, however is an influential voice within the operating of the nation.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 72, is thought to be the clear front-runner amongst seven candidates. He’s an affable, approachable regulation professor and former tv character who as president has constantly had an approval ranking of 60 % or extra.
To win, a candidate should seize greater than 50 % of the vote. However a extreme surge in coronavirus infections in latest days may preserve turnout low and maybe result in a runoff between the 2 prime candidates, which might happen on February 14.
Portugal has elevated the variety of polling stations and allowed for early voting to scale back crowding on election day.
World’s highest an infection charges
Portugal has the world’s highest charges of latest day by day infections and deaths, in accordance with a tally by Johns Hopkins College, and the general public well being system is below enormous pressure.
Authorities reported a file day by day toll of 274 deaths and greater than 15,300 new instances on Saturday, with ambulances queuing for a number of hours at hospitals full to capability.
“I don’t agree that the date wasn’t modified,” stated Jose Antonio Queda, 72, who additionally got here early along with his spouse. “If we’re in confinement, we needs to be avoiding the virus as a lot as potential.”
With the nation in lockdown, the election marketing campaign featured not one of the common flag-waving rallies or different giant public occasions, although restrictions on motion had been lifted for polling day. Voters had been requested to take their very own pen and disinfectant to polling stations.
Among the many incumbent’s six challengers, right-wing populist André Ventura has attracted curiosity as the primary ultra-conservative to interrupt into Portuguese mainstream politics.
Hold it to 1 spherical
In his closing marketing campaign speech, Rebelo de Sousa – one of many uncommon politicians usually referred to easily by his first title – urged voters to again him in order to keep away from a second spherical.
That might “spare the Portuguese individuals from the election being stretched out over three essential weeks” – time that might be higher spent slowing the pandemic, the previous minister and co-founder of the centre-right Social Democratic Occasion (PSD) stated.
“An abstention price of 70 % can be sufficient to make a second spherical virtually unavoidable,” the 72-year-old warned.
Low turnout may additionally upset the anticipated simple win for Rebelo de Sousa, with polls giving him 58 % of the first-round vote – far forward of socialist challenger Ana Gomes and Ventura, on 15 and 10 %, respectively.
A primary-round re-election would slot in with Portugal’s expertise since adopting democratic authorities in 1974, with all 4 of the president’s predecessors securing a second five-year time period this manner.
Rebelo de Sousa’s reputation with voters has not suffered from his indulgence of Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s socialist minority authorities.
He’s so well-liked that the socialist social gathering didn’t see the necessity to put up a candidate, denying its backing to 66-year-old Gomes, a former diplomat and European lawmaker turned anti-corruption activist.
In the meantime, Ventura, the 38-year-old founding father of right-wing populist social gathering Chega (Sufficient) stated he’s within the operating to “crush the left”, which is fielding three out of the seven candidates.
Portugal has to this point been largely spared the anti-establishment surges from the precise which have reshaped the political panorama in lots of bigger EU nations lately.
Ventura secured his social gathering’s first and solely parliamentary seat at 2019 legislative elections, profitable the backing of 70,000 voters or 1.3 %.
Polls opened at 8am (08:00 GMT). Media projections of outcomes will start as soon as polls shut at 20:00 GMT in Portugal’s Azores islands.