Socialists tipped to lead as Portugal votes


Some 9.5 million people go to the polls in Portugal Sunday in an election which Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ Socialists are tipped to win, but without their current absolute majority in parliament.

After spending a long stretch neck and neck with the main centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Socialists extended their lead over their main rivals on the eve of the polls.

The last surveys of voting intentions Friday put support for the Socialists at between 38.0 and 38.8 percent against between 29.1 and 30.0 percent for the PSD, led since 2008 by former finance minister Manuela Ferreira Leite.

That would give the Socialists 100 seats in the 230-seat assembly, compared to the 121 they captured in the last election in 2005 giving them the first majority since the end of a lengthy right-wing dictatorship in 1974.

The main opposition parties to the right and left of the Socialists have already ruled out forming a coalition government with Socrates, who has avoided discussing any possible post-election scenarios.

The Left Block, a party which grew out of the union of small Trotskyite, Maoist and other far-left movements that has called for the nationalisation of banks and insurance firms, is poised to become the third main party in parliament.

It has seen its level of support drop in the final days of the campaign but could still see the number of seats in parliament rise from the present eight to 22, according to the final surveys.

The PSD, which opposes the large public works projects proposed by the Socialists to stimulate the economy, are projected to capture 80 seats and the right-wing Popular Party 15.

A total of 16 parties are contesting the election which uses a system of proportional representation.

Polling stations open at 8:00 am (0700 GMT) and close at 7:00 pm. The law says exit polls can only be announced after voting ends in the Azores archipelago in the Atlantic, one hour later than on mainland Portugal.

The results of voting by Portuguese citizens aborad — who elect four of the 230 lawmakers in the assembly — will only be known on October 7.

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