Portugal’s right wing suffers defeat in Oct. 6 elections
Supporters of Portuguese Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Antonio Costa react following the announcement of first election results in Lisbon Sunday night, Oct. 6, 2019. An exit poll indicates the center-left Socialist Party has collected the most votes in Portugal's general election and is poised to continue in government for another four years, but the party will likely have to rely on the Left Bloc and the Communist Party to stay in power. | Armando Franca / AP

For the second national election in a row, the right-wing parties have been kept out of the government by Portugal’s voters. In the elections Sunday, the Socialist Party, led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa, came in first with 36.7% of the vote, which translates into 106 seats in the parliament, 10 short of a majority.

The Left Bloc and the Communist Party together garnered 32% of the vote, with the Left Bloc getting 19 seats and the Communists 12. The right-wing party, misnamed the Social Democratic Party (PSD), garnered only 28 percent of the vote, putting it in a position where it will have no say about the formation of the new government, which will take several weeks to put together. The other right-wing party, the Christian Democrats, the CDS-PP, upon which the PSD depended in the past so it could form governments, collapsed to a paltry 4% of the vote.

Currently, the Socialist Party leads a minority government which right-wingers in the parliament cannot oust because the constitution permits political alliances to vote against motions in parliament to kick out that government. The Communists and the Left Bloc—which is a collection of small left-wing parties, including Maoists, Trotskyists, utopian socialists, left libertarians, and others—have voted to prevent that from happening in exchange for the Socialists backing certain pro-working class reforms.

Large Communist vote in Portugal Oct. 6 key to preserving working-class gains

The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) has survived what has been an unprecedented series of attacks against it by the mainstream media and in social media, fueled by huge amounts of corporate money. Much of Portugal’s big business establishment actually supported the Socialist Party in the hopes that it could gain enough votes so it would not have to depend upon Communist, Green, or Left Bloc support to remain in power.

The PCP insisted when the Socialists formed their minority government four years ago that it support a hike in the minimum wage, reduction of the costs of public transport, free textbooks in public schools, reduced taxes for small and micro businesses, and stronger environmental policies.

“Important steps were taken in defending, restoring, and achieving new rights,” said PCP General Secretary Jerónimo De Sousa yesterday after the election results became clear. “But it also became clear that…the advances achieved are not sufficient to ensure the necessary response to the country’s problems.”

He said that his party wants to “open the way…to…break with the right-wing policies which the Socialist Party has not abandoned.

Jeronimo De Sousa, General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party, speaks at CDU press conference immediately following the election. | PCP

“Fulfilling our pledges to the workers and the people, we lay out as immediate goals of struggle, a general increase in wages and in the national minimum to 850 euros; an overall increase in retirement pensions; the right to a free crèche (daycare) for all children up to the age of three; the right to housing with guarantees to tenants; the construction of more public housing; more funds for public transportation; more funds for the National Health Service and public services; 1 percent of the budget for culture, and guarantees for the protection of nature, the environment, and ecological balances.”

The PCP was in coalition with the Greens, running joint slates under the banner of the CDU, the Unity Democratic Coalition.

De Sousa praised the decisive defeat of the right but warned that beating it at the ballot box does not mean total defeat of its policies. He said that that can only come with struggle and with growing support for the programs put forward by Communists and their allies.

A major goal of the PCP in the elections Sunday was to achieve enough votes so that the Socialists would, in order to remain in power, need to pay attention to the left in Portugal. This goal, at least, has been met. The other goal of a much larger vote for the PCP is one the party undoubtedly will continue to pursue.

On the issue of negotiations concerning formation of a new government in Portugal, De Sousa says the PCP is “ready.”


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.