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President Marcelo's popularity plummets

Atualizado: 7 de jun.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa's popularity plummet to its lowest level since his election in 2016, receiving almost two negative evaluations (60%) for every positive one (32%), a new Aximage poll for DN, JN and TSF revealed.

In terms of popularity, only André Ventura from far-right Chega has a worse score then Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, among the leaders of the nine largest parties in Portugal.

The results are quite different from the last of these polls on the Portuguese opinion of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Released in April, it showed that 32% were satisfied with the Head of State, with only 25% giving him a negative rating.

At the time, a significant majority pointed to the need for a more active President in the new legislature (62%). Two months on, the balance is negative. The results show the worst evaluation on record in this series of barometers.

Aximage's data says nothing about the reasons for the loss of popularity. However, one possible explanation for this result, says DN and JN, is Marcelo's comments on the eve of 25 April to foreign press correspondents.

At the time, the President commented on the personalities of António Costa and Luís Montenegro - he spoke of the former's ‘slow’ and ‘oriental’ style and the latter's ‘urban-rural’ origin -, defended reparations to the former colonies, and revealed and justified the break in relations with his son.

It should be noted that, compared to previous polls, the ‘neither good nor bad’ option has disappeared. Respondents therefore had to give a positive, negative or no opinion on the matter.

This month, the balance is negative in all segments of the sample (regions, gender, ages, social class) and even includes AD voters (a 21-point deficit). The president has the worst image among men and in the two oldest age groups.

The poll also looks at the respondents' level of confidence in the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, Luís Montenegro. In this area Marcelo has more confidence (32%), but only by two percentage points. PM Luís Montenegro has 30%.

Fieldwork for the poll took place between 17 and 22 May 2024. The sample included 801 valid interviews (697 online interviews and 104 telephone interviews).

Searches underway

But popularity may not be the greatest challenge facing President Marcelo.

On Thursday, the Judiciary Police carried out searches in the Ministry of Health and Santa Maria Hospital, in Lisbon, in connection with the case of the Portuguese-Brazilian twins who were treated in Portugal.

The Presidential Palace has not been included in the searches as, according to the Public Prosecutor's Office, there's no evidence that President Marcelo committed any crime in the twins' case. However, this already has been widely criticized since the case started due to suspicions that Nuno Rebelo de Sousa, son of the President of the Republic, may have interfered to help the twins have preferential treatment in Portugal.

Among the main targets of the searches is the office of the former Secretary of State for Health, António Lacerda Sales, who was named a defendant rarlier this week.

According to CNN PORTUGAL, the former ruler is suspected of crimes such as influence peddling or abuse of power and has already been charged. The former government official was due to be heard this Thursday by the parliamentary commission investigating the case, but asked to postpone the hearing, citing professional reasons. The clinical director of Santa Maria Hospital, Luís Pinheiro, is also being searched.

In a statement, the PJ said that they are carrying out 11 search warrants, with the aim of “consolidating the ongoing investigation into crimes of malfeasance, abuse of powers, influence peddling, abuse of power and qualified fraud”.

“By carrying out this operation, the aim is to collect telecommunications and IT equipment, evidence of a documentary nature, electronic mail, elements that will be subjected to examinations and expertise, aimed at fully clarifying the facts”, explains the PJ.

In total, around 50 inspectors from the PJ's National Anti-Corruption Unit and experts from the PJ's Technological and IT Expertise Unit participated, as well as several magistrates from the Public Ministry and judicial magistrates.

The case of the twins living in Brazil, who acquired Portuguese nationality and received the drug Zolgensma in Portugal in 2020, with a total cost of four million euros, is still being investigated by the Attorney General's Office (PGR).

An internal audit of Hospital Santa Maria concluded that the scheduling of a first hospital appointment by the State Department of Health was the only exception to compliance with the rules in this case. The IGAS audit concluded that “the legal requirements were not met in the access of the two children to the neuropediatric consultation” to be treated in the NHS with the drug Zolgensma.

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