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Portugal - Presidential Election

Anibal Cavaco Silva wins the presidential election in the first round

Anibal Cavaco Silva wins the presidential election in the first round

24/01/2006 - Results

The Portuguese, who are used to appointing their President in the first round of the election, did so again on 22nd January electing Anibal Cavaco Silva (Social Democrat Party PSD) as Head of State. Hence he is the first liberal President since the Carnation Revolution on 25th April 1974 that heralded the fall of the dictatorship established by Antonio Oliveira Salazar in 1932. The grand favourite in the pre-electoral polls the former Prime Minister (1985-1995) had 50.59% of the voting intentions, easily drawing ahead of his two main adversaries. Mario Soares, the Socialist Party's official candidate (PS) won 14.34% of the vote and was even beaten by the other Socialist Party candidate, Manuel Alegre, vice-president of the National Assembly since 1995, who was running without his party's support winning 20.72% of the vote.

The three other candidates who lay to the left of the political scale each won under 10% of the vote. Jeronimo de Sousa, Secretary General and Communist Party candidate (PCP) won 8.59% of the vote, Francisco Louca, leader and candidate of the Left Bloc (BE) won 5.31% and Garcia Pereira, Secretary General and Communist Workers' Party candidate (PCPT/MRPP), 0.44%. Since Francisco Louca and Garcia Pereira, won less than 6% of the vote they will not be reimbursed their campaign expenses.

The participation rate rose to 62.60%, i.e. 12.89 points more than during the last election on 14th January 2001, a relatively high result for a presidential election in Portugal.

Anibal Cavaco Silva, the only candidate running for the liberal forces certainly took advantage of the division on the left and above all of that within the Socialist Party. No less than five candidates were standing against him including two for the Socialist Party. By choosing the former liberal Prime Minister the Portuguese also sanctioned Jose Socrates' Socialist government – in power since 20th February 2005 -as they did in October last year during the local elections. The paradox is that far from being against the reforms launched by the Socialist Prime Minister, Anibal Cavaco Silva supports them and hopes that he will be able to co-operate with the Prime Minister in a "spirit of loyalty and mutual assistance." Both men share the same opinion about the problems Portugal is facing and agree on the reforms to set in place in order to lead the country out of the crisis it is in (reform of the social security, public administration and justice, the need to attract foreign investment). Anibal Cavaco Silva, unlike the other, never attacked the Prime Minister during his campaign and this should encourage the government to continue the reforms launched eleven months ago. "In respect of the Constitution I shall be entirely available to work with the President of the Republic in the interest of political stability," said Jose Socrates. During the campaign he even pointed out that victory on the part of Anibal Cavaco Silva would not change his economic policy in any way. "Jose Socrates, whose party emerged divided after the election might end up by turning to Anibal Cavaco Silva for support if the divisions within the party are not settled," believes journalist Antonio Jose Texeira. "Anibal Cavaco Silva will have even greater room to manœuvre since the dissident candidature on the part of Manuel Alegre will effect the unity of the Socialist Party," stressed Carlos Magno, political journalist for the TV channel RTPI.

The new President, who has promised the Portuguese that he "he will make their dreams come true" also succeeded in providing voters with confidence as they saw in him the best candidate to lead the country out of the crisis it is undergoing at present. According to the pre-electoral polls nearly eight Portuguese in ten believed Anibal Cavaco Silva to be the best candidate in terms of economy. He succeeded in manipulating patriotic sentiment ("I know that Portugal can win" announced his campaign slogan), rising above the crowd to reassure and convince a major part of the electorate (including 20% of Socialists according to the director of the pollster Eurosondagem, Rui Oliveira Costa), nostalgic about a period of high growth, increases in wages and an improvement in social security experienced by Portugal under the governments led by the former Prime Minister, that he could improve their daily lot.

During his electoral campaign, Anibal Cavaco Silva quickly pointed to the ten years he had spent as head of government when he succeeded in modernising significantly the economy and Portuguese society. The country is undergoing a serious socio-economic crisis right now: low growth -0.8% in 2005- an unemployment rate that lies at 7.7%, increasing poverty – two million Portuguese live with less than 350 euros per month – and a budgetary deficit that has reached nearly 7% of the GDP. The country is suffering political instability too: no less than four Prime Ministers have succeeded one another since 2002 as well as four Finance Ministers over the last twelve months! "In this extremely serious context it is up to the future President to be more than a simple ombudsman," repeated the Social Democrat candidate during his electoral campaign.

"I greet the Portuguese, all the Portuguese for their demonstration of civic duty during this election. I want to be and will be the President of all the Portuguese. (...) I am committed to the development of our country. It is not a small task that lies before us, the road will be long and difficult," declared Anibal Cavaco Silva on the announcement of the results. "I know how important stability is. The country needs to move forwards," he maintained and continued by saying that he wanted to "help Portugal out of the crisis." The new President of the Republic was congratulated by the present President of the European Commission (and former Portuguese Prime Minister), José Manuel Durao Barroso. "His election represents the confirmation of Portugal's European vocation, exactly twenty years after the country's accession to the European Union," declared José Manuel Durao Barroso, who also recalled "the enthusiasm and sincere commitment to Europe" on the part of Anibal Cavaco Silva.

Sixty-six year old Anibal Cavaco Silva, a trained economist, worked as a researcher for the Central Bank of Portugal. He entered the Social Democrat Party in 1974 after meeting the party's founder, Francisco Sa Carneiro ; he experienced rapid promotion within the party and became the Planning and Finance Minister between 1980 and 1981. After having helped significantly in the overthrow of the Social-Democrat-Socialist Party coalition in power at the time he won the general elections and was appointed Prime Minister in 1985. In 1996, Anibal Cavaco Silva failed to win the presidential election against Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio and withdrew from national political life to take up his former profession of teaching economy.

Mario Soares acknowledged his defeat on the announcement of the first results. "The results are contrary to my aspirations. I accept this defeat with the feeling of a duty fulfilled and of democratic fair-play," stressed the former President of the Republic (1986 1996) and Prime Minister (1983-1986) for whom this was one election too many. "Electoral victories and failures are part of the rules of the democratic game," maintained Mario Soares on Sunday evening. After this presidential election that revealed internal dissension within the ruling party many political analysts believe that Prime Minister José Socrates, who chose to support the former President of the Republic at the expense of Manuel Alegre might convene an early extraordinary congress of the Socialist Party, whose next national congress is due in autumn 2006. For his part, Manuel Alegre said that he wanted to help "in the renewal of political life." There is an area of citizenship beyond the political parties," he said adding, "I am ready to take part in new battles."

With the election of the Social Democrat Anibal Cavaco Silva as President of the Republic the Portuguese after bringing a Socialist government to power have shown again that they are sensitive to the balance of power.

The new President will officially succeed Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio on 9th March next.

First Round Results in the Presidential Election 22nd January 2005 in Portugal

Participation rate: 62.60%

source Electoral Commission of Portugal
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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