A person voting in advance for the presidential election in Portugal, in Lisbon on January 19, 2021. -
Armando Franca / AP / SIPA
It is an election that will be held in the particular context of strict confinement.
The Portuguese are called on Sunday to elect their president for a five-year term, a ballot which should seal the renewal of the incumbent, moderate conservative Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
As all the polls predict the re-election of the current head of state in the first round, the suspense relates to the score of the far-right candidate André Ventura, who could create surprise by arriving second, in front of the former Socialist MEP Ana Gomes.
The participation rate of the 10.8 million registered voters is the other major issue of the ballot, since the polling stations will open at 8 am in a country subjected for ten days to a second general confinement.
The government had to resolve to take this measure when new daily records of contamination and deaths were broken again on Saturday, bringing the total toll since the start of the pandemic beyond the threshold of 10,000 deaths.
Above all, with over 80,000 contagions over the past week, Portugal ranks first in the world in terms of the number of new cases compared to its population, surpassed only by Gibraltar.
In his last campaign speech, the outgoing president 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 slow down the epidemic.
Socialists without an official candidate
In fact, candidates and observers fear that the health context, added to the foreseeable outcome of the election, will cause very little mobilization, which in turn risks blurring the forecasts of the polls.
In the latest surveys, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was credited with at least 58% of the voting intentions, against nearly 15% for the socialist Ana Gomes and a little more than 10% for the right-wing populist André Ventura.
Remained very popular since his election, the current head of state has cohabited without major hitch with the socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa who, to avoid a guaranteed defeat, did not present any candidacy.
The head of government even refused to support Ana Gomes, a 66-year-old diplomat who has become a prominent anti-corruption activist and who has stood up against the rise of the far right.
"Crush the left"
André Ventura, he said he wanted to "crush the left", which has three of the seven candidates, and thus hopes to confirm the progression of right-wing populism in a country which, until now, was an exception.
With a score of 1.3% and 70,000 votes in the legislative elections of 2019, this 38-year-old jurist became the sole deputy of the anti-system party "Chega" ("that's enough"), which he himself founded after having campaigned within the main Portuguese center-right formation, as the outgoing president.
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