Portugal Prepares for Early General Election Amid Government Collapse and Corruption Scandal

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On Sunday, 10.8 million registered voters in Portugal will choose 230 members of the National Assembly, the nation’s legislature, in an early general election. A new administration will subsequently be selected by the legislators.

The center-left Socialist Party and the center-right Social Democratic Party, two moderate parties that have been in power for decades, are predicted to receive the majority of votes once more.

However, dissatisfaction with the major parties is fueling the rise of an extreme-right populist party, which may accelerate Europe’s political rightward shift.

The following concerns have been central to the campaign:

Scandals of Corruption

A socialist administration fell in November as a result of an inquiry into corruption, which is why an election is being held. Antonio Costa, the prime minister, had his chief of staff arrested and his official residence searched by police as part of the scandal. Costa is not facing any criminal charges.

Recently, a Lisbon court determined that a former socialist prime minister who ruled from 2005 to 2011 ought to go on trial for allegedly receiving over 34 million euros ($36.7 million) in cash while in government.

Allegations of corruption have also embarrassed the Social Democratic Party.”

Two high-ranking Social Democrats in Portugal resigned in response to a recent bribery investigation in the Madeira Islands. The controversy broke on the same day that the Social Democratic Party in Lisbon displayed a billboard with the slogan, “It can’t go on like this,” 

Criticizing Corruption.

Chega, or “Enough,” is a five-year-old radical right populist party that has made fighting corruption one of its political platforms and stands to gain from the scandals.

A  Housing Crisis

According to data from the European Union, between 2010 and the second quarter of last year, house prices in Portugal increased by around 80% and rentals by about 30%. These gains far outpaced pay increases.

Recent years have seen a significant increase in prices, mostly due to an influx of foreign investors and travelers looking for short-term rentals. Large cities like Lisbon, the nation’s capital, have felt the impact of the change the most since many residents have been priced out of the property market.

The increase in mortgage rates and inflation last year made the issue worse.

Low Pay

The Portuguese have always earned some of the lowest salaries in Western Europe. That bothers me, and police officers are the ones who started the most recent pay-related public protests.

The average monthly salary before taxes in Lisbon was just about 1,500 euros ($1,630) last year, which was insufficient to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

More than 800,000 people make the 820 euros ($893) monthly minimum wage. That’s the take-home wage, or 676 euros ($736). The monthly income of nearly 3 million Portuguese workers is less than 1,000 euros ($1,090).

Incomes have remained low due to weak productivity and economic development. The average yearly rise in GDP per capita throughout the first 22 years of this century was about 1%. It seems like the economy is stuck in low gear.

Since 2011, Portugal’s GDP per capita has been less than 80% of the EU average; before that, it had never exceeded 83%.

The Leading Candidates

Pedro Nuno Santos, a socialist leader, is a representative and a former minister of infrastructure and housing.

Under pressure from his management of the financially troubled flag carrier TAP Air Portugal and an unresolved dispute over the location of a new airport in Lisbon, Santos, 46, resigned from the previous administration.

He is descended from a prosperous Portuguese business family in the north. He used to own a Porsche when he was much younger, but he sold it because he “didn’t feel comfortable” with it.

The 51-year-old leader of the Social Democratic Party, Luis Montenegro, is a lawyer who entered Parliament at the age of 29 and served as a legislator for 16 years.

He is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, an electoral coalition made up primarily of small right-of-center parties. He never held a position in the Portuguese government.

Claims that Montenegro was given free tickets to soccer matches by a media business were looked at by police in 2017, but the case was eventually closed.

Although 41-year-old Chega leader Andre Ventura doesn’t seem to have much chance of winning the prime ministership, if his party’s popularity soars after the election, he might wind up being a major player.

A colorful career has been Ventura’s. He used to be a tax law expert and practicing attorney. Now, he teaches tax law at a university, writes low-brow books, and is a flamboyant speaker on the campaign trail.