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What to expect from Portugal's high stakes election

Portugal heads to the polls this Sunday in what could be its most important election in decades.


First, it follows the bombshell resignation of António Costa in the wake of a probe into alleged corruption involving lithium and “green” hydrogen deals, in which investigators carried out more than 42 searches, including the Prime Minister's official residence. Second, Portugal will elect a new Prime Minister as António Costa has decided to stand down after 8 years in the post. So, the two leading candidates - Luís Montenegro, who heads the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD), and Pedro Nuno Santos from the Socialist Party (PS) - will be newcomers to the post. Third, far-right Chega is set to finish third in the election and it could take 15% to 20% of the vote, making it a potential kingmaker for a new right-wing administration. This is dramatic change for a country that has long been averse to the far-right because of the Estado novo dictators that ruled Portugal for over 40 years. Fourth, the snap elections take place a few weeks away from the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution. So, there's a chance that when Portugal marks this historic date, the will be a Government supported by the far-right for the first time since 1974. Fifth, major decisions about Portugal's future, including the location of Lisbon's new airport, the survival of the National Health Service and negotiations on the future of the EU in the context of great international instability, will befall on the next Government.

Polls suggest that it will be a down-to-the-wire race between the AD and the Socialists, with many voters making their decision literally in the last day, or hours, even at the voting booth - so PORTUGAL DECODED has rated the likelihood of some of the most-talked about post-electoral scenarios to help you figure out what to expect.


No clear winner emerges on Sunday as the moderate right (the AD plus the Liberals) fails to clinch enough seats to form a governing majority, and a left-wing bloc led by the Socialists (the coalition that originally brought António Costa to power in 2015) also falls short of the 116 seats needed to guarantee majority rule. In this scenario, the two parties most likely to be kingmakers are CHEGA - with whom no one officially wants to work - and the greens PAN - which has sided with both the left and the right in the past but wins no more than 1 seat in Parliament this time.

The President then invites the leader of the most voted party to form a government, hoping that he can negotiate support in Parliament to survive the first months. Socialist leader Pedro Nuno Santos has said he will not propose or support a motion of no-confident against a minority right-wing government, but crucially that offer doesn’t include the 2025 Budget proposal (which will be presented in October 2024) and AD's leader Luís Montenegro has not reciprocated it if the left attempts to form a minority government. So, sooner or later, but not before 6 months have passed since this one as the law demands it, a new election will be necessary.

PORTUGAL DECODED's likelihood rating: 9/10



CHEGA currently holds 12 seats, having won 7.18 % of the vote in the last legislative elections in 2022. This turn, as predicted by the most recent polls, CHEGA wins between 15 - 16 % of the vote and its parliamentary group grows to more than 30 MPs. However, for this to happen, the territorial distribution of votes is decisive, because less populous districts, such as those in the Alentejo, elect fewer MPs than constituencies such as Lisbon (48 MPs), Porto (40) or Braga (19).


It's well known that Chega placed a lot of emphasis on the south of the country. Faro elects nine MPs, Beja only three and Évora just as many, out of a total of 230 MPs in the Portuguese Parliament. However, the district of Setúbal, where Chega also wants to steal votes from the PS and CDU, and it is entitled to 19 MPs. If the far-right has a good result here, it's more likely to expand its bench.

PORTUGAL DECODED's likelihood rating: 8/10



Though they fare better than in the last election, in which they won 4.3 % of the popular vote (earning them six seats), the Communists (PCP) lose all their seats in Parliament. This happens because they cannot clinch enough votes to elect an MP in a single district.


On this subject, it is worth remembering the case of the right-wing CDS in the 2022 legislative elections: the party got 89,113 votes, more than the PAN and Livre, but, unlike those two, failed to elect any MPs. This is because the votes were dispersed throughout the country, while PAN and Livre have a larger voter base in urban centers, namely Lisbon, which elects more MPs.

PORTUGAL DECODED's likelihood rating: 3/10



Defying all odds, either the Socialist Party or the center-right win an outright majority for the third time in Portugal history. This is a reedition of the 2022 result, when, despite predictions of a tight race, António Costa was re-elected with an outright majority.


The surprise result stems from the fact that up to 20% of were undecided until the last minute and another 20% decided to change their vote at the ballot box. They did so because they were concerned about stability and the prospect of far-right CHEGA, whose proposals include castrating sex offenders, becoming kingmaker.

PORTUGAL DECODED's likelihood rating: 3/10

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