Portugal Election Latest: Center-Right Group Leads in Exit Poll

(Bloomberg) -- Portugal’s center-right AD coalition won Sunday’s elections, in a tight race which saw support for the far-right surge.

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With 99% of votes counted, the AD had secured 79 seats. Far-right party Chega recorded the biggest jump in support compared with the 2022 election - it has already won 48 seats, quadrupling its current tally. This means the AD would be able to control parliament with the backing of Chega.

Andre Ventura, who founded Chega in 2019, has grown the party from a one-lawmaker outfit into the third largest parliamentary force. He said Sunday that it’s clear AD and Chega have an outright majority and he should be allowed to negotiate a role in a government led by the center-right.

The AD’s leader, Luis Montenegro, once more ruled out any agreement with Ventura, with whom he has an acrimonious relationship.

The early election was called after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa quit in November amid a probe into alleged influence peddling. Costa, who’d been prime minister since 2015, had won reelection in January 2022 with an absolute majority in parliament.

(All times are Lisbon time)

Center-Right Claims Victory (01:03 a.m.)

AD’s leader claimed victory and said he hoped that Portugal’s president would hand him a mandate to form a government. Montenegro also reiterated that he would not seek an agreement with Chega, even if that would allow his party to have a majority of seats in parliament.

“Naturally, I will keep my word,” said Montenegro when asked if he would maintain his pledge during the campaign not to form an alliance with Chega.

He said that he hopes the Socialist Party and Chega won’t join forces to block the new government.

Socialists Concede Defeat (00:45 a.m.)

Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos said his party is ready to be the opposition, after conceding defeat to the center-right coalition.

In a speech to his supporters at a hotel in Lisbon, Nuno Santos said he had already congratulated the leader of the AD for his victory. “The Socialist Party will become the opposition.” He added that the AD should not count on his support to govern, though he won’t help block their attempt to form a government.

Climate Protesters Target PSD’s Venue (10:58 p.m.)

Climate protesters threw red paint on the Epic Sana Hotel, where the Partido Social Democrata (PSD) is holding an election night watch party during the general election in Lisbon, Portugal, on Sunday, March 10, 2024. Portugal’s center-right AD coalition is set to win over its Socialist opponents in parliamentary elections, according to an exit poll, setting the stage for a minority government having to rely on the support of smaller parties to govern.

Spanish Far-Right Party Congratulates Chega’s Ventura (10:35 p.m.)

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spanish far-right party Vox, congratulated Chega’s Ventura for a “great result,” in a post on X.

As with Vox in Spain, the far right in Portugal remains the third-biggest party in parliament, still locked out of the top two positions.

High Voter Turnout (8:55 p.m.)

Voter turnout on Sunday is set to be the highest for a parliamentary election in about 15 years, the RTP exit poll indicated. The number of Portuguese voting exceeded that of the past two elections in 2019 and 2022, both won by the Socialists.

Chega Insists It Wants a Role in Government (8:51 p.m.)

Chega leader Ventura hailed what he says is a “historic” result for the party, having received enough voter support to allow him to negotiate a role in the next government. “Today the Portuguese spoke out and clearly said that they want a two-party government – Chega and AD,” Ventura said in comments broadcast by RTP television. Together, the two parties would effectively control parliament.

However, a coalition looks unlikely. Before the vote, AD leader Montenegro rejected any alliance with Chega. In a televised debate on Feb. 12, Montenegro said Ventura stood for “xenophobic, racist, populist and excessively demagogic” ideas and represented the “degree zero of politics.”

Minority Government Will Have to Make Concessions (8:38 p.m.)

The lack of an outright majority leaves Portugal in a “murky situation,” with a government dependent on support from other parties in parliament to govern, says Marina Costa Lobo, professor of political science at the University of Lisbon.

The AD has ruled out an alliance with Chega, meaning it will have to get backing from the Socialist Party, something Costa Lobo says will complicate major decisions like the annual budget. “We are in a dire situation where concessions and compromises will have to be made.”

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