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Health The Portuguese elect their president, at the height of the Covid-19 epidemic

15:08  24 january  2021
15:08  24 january  2021 Source:   leparisien.fr

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Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, le président sortant, est crédité de 58 % des intentions de vote dès le premier tour de l’élection présidentielle. © AFP Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the outgoing president, is credited with 58% of the voting intentions in the first round of the presidential election .

The suspense does not really hover in Portugal. According to polls, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the moderate conservative and outgoing president, has every chance of being re-elected in the presidential election, the first round of which is held this Sunday. The score of the far-right candidate André Ventura will be scrutinized with attention. He could create a surprise by arriving second, ahead of the former socialist MEP Ana Gomes.

The polling stations opened at 8 a.m. This election is being held in special circumstances, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a second general confinement. After shops and restaurants, the government had to resolve on Friday to close schools for two weeks while new daily records of contaminations and deaths were broken again on Saturday, bringing the total toll since the start of the pandemic to- beyond the threshold of 10,000 deaths.

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The participation rate of the 10.8 million registered voters will therefore be another major issue in the ballot. Since postal voting is little used in the country, the authorities exceptionally organized a day of advance polling last Sunday which mobilized nearly 200,000 voters. But the images of the long queues that have formed in front of some polling stations may have discouraged many others this Sunday.

“Spare the Portuguese the extension of the election”

In his last campaign speech, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called on voters to vote for him in order to avoid a second round, scheduled for February 14, and thus “spare the Portuguese the extension of the election for three crucial weeks "to curb the epidemic. "All it takes is a 70% abstention to make a second round almost inevitable," he worried Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a 72-year-old former law professor who became famous as a political commentator on television.

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On paper, the outgoing candidate is credited by the polls with at least 58% of the voting intentions, against nearly 15% for the socialist Ana Gomes and just over 10% for the right-wing populist André Ventura. The current head of state has been in power for five years enjoys good public opinion. He managed to cohabit without major hitch with the socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa who, to avoid a guaranteed defeat, did not present any candidate. The head of government even refused to support socialist Ana Gomes, a 66-year-old career diplomat who has become a prominent anti-corruption activist and who has stood up against the rise of the far right.

A possible rise of the far right

For his part, André Ventura, the far right candidate who said he wanted to “crush the left”, hopes to upset the polls or in any case to confirm the progression of right-wing populism in the country.

With a score of 1.3% and 70,000 votes in the 2019 legislative elections, this 38-year-old lawyer became the sole deputy of the anti-system “Chega” (“that's enough”) party he founded. He was supported in his campaign by Marine Le Pen of the National Rally who made the trip to Lisbon on January 8.

According to analysts, although Chega is unlikely to be a dominant force in the country in the short term, the party seems to be finding more and more resonance. It remains to be seen whether voters will say this for the first time at the polls?

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