Portugal votes in presidential election amid coronavirus surge

25 Janvier, 2021, 17:06 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Portugal election

Polls by leading TV stations TVI, RTP and SIC gave 72-year-old Rebelo de Sousa, a former TV commentator known for his warm persona and habit of taking selfies with supporters, 56-62% of the vote, above his 52% win in 2016.

Among the incumbent's six challengers, right-wing populist André Ventura has attracted curiosity as the first extremist to break into Portuguese mainstream politics.

Four other candidates ran for president.

The turnout was just shy of 40% - significantly lower than in recent elections and apparently confirming concerns that some people would stay away for fear of becoming infected with COVID-19.

Portugal remains under a strict national lockdown after the country of 10.8 million recorded its worst daily coronavirus death toll and number of new infections on Saturday.

Political leaders say that when the pandemic began to worsen there was no longer enough time to change the Portuguese constitution to allow a postponement.

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Mr Rebelo de Sousa, 72, has always been viewed as the clear front-runner in the contest.

Mr Rebelo de Sousa, a former leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, has worked closely with the centre-left minority Socialist government, supporting its pandemic efforts. Photographs taken by passers-by of him in public places, such as one past year of him standing in line at a supermarket wearing sneakers and shorts, routinely go viral.

"Since the date of the elections wasn't changed, I chose to come early", said Cristina Queda, 58, who arrived at her polling station in Lisbon as soon as it opened at 8 a.m.to "avoid groups and queues". Voters were asked to take their own pen and disinfectant to polling stations. Everyone voting wore a mask and kept a safe distance from each other.

Pollsters predict record numbers of abstentions, in part because 1.1 million voters from overseas were added to the electoral register for the first time - but also because hundreds of thousands of voters are themselves in quarantine.

Prime Minister António Costa, in a tweet, urged people to turn out for the ballot, saying that "unprecedented planning" had gone into ensuring that the vote could take place safely. No woman or member of an ethnic minority has ever held the post.

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