May 20, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Portugal’s center-right AD coalition is set to win Sunday’s elections, marking a shift to the right after eight years of Socialist rule, according to exit polls.

The group led by the PSD is positioned to win 29%-33% of the vote, or as many as 91 seats in parliament. Another poll from TVI also gave the AD the lead in the election.

Far-right party Chega recorded the biggest jump in support compared with the 2022 election – it could get at least 40 seats, more than triple its current tally. This means the AD would be able to control parliament with the backing of Chega.

Andre Ventura, who founded Chega in 2019, has grown the party from a one-lawmaker outfit into the third largest parliamentary force. He said Sunday that he should be allowed to negotiate a role in an AD-led government. AD’s leader Luis Montenegro, has maintained an acrimonious relationship with Ventura and ruled out any agreement with the party.

The early election was called after Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa quit in November amid a probe into alleged influence peddling. Costa still campaigned for the Socialists before the election, hoping to extend the party’s stint in power, but that now looks like it’s not going to happen, based on estimates in the RTP poll.

(All times are Lisbon time)

Spanish Far-Right Party Congratulates Chega’s Ventura (10:35 p.m.)

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spanish far-right party Vox, congratulated Chega’s Ventura for a “great result,” in a post on X.

As with Vox in Spain, the far right in Portugal remains the third-biggest party in parliament, still locked out of the top two positions.

High Voter Turnout (8:55 p.m.)

Voter turnout on Sunday is set to be the highest for a parliamentary election in about 15 years, the RTP exit poll indicated. The number of Portuguese voting exceeded that of the past two elections in 2019 and 2022, both won by the Socialists.

Chega Insists It Wants a Role in Government (8:51 p.m.)

Chega leader Ventura hailed what he says is a “historic” result for the party, having received enough voter support to allow him to negotiate a role in the next government. “Today the Portuguese spoke out and clearly said that they want a two-party government – Chega and AD,” Ventura said in comments broadcast by RTP television. Together, the two parties would effectively control parliament.

However, a coalition looks unlikely. Before the vote, AD leader Montenegro rejected any alliance with Chega. In a televised debate on Feb. 12, Montenegro said Ventura stood for “xenophobic, racist, populist and excessively demagogic” ideas and represented the “degree zero of politics.”

Minority Government Will Have to Make Concessions (8:38 p.m.)

The lack of an outright majority leaves Portugal in a “murky situation,” with a government dependent on support from other parties in parliament to govern, says Marina Costa Lobo, professor of political science at the University of Lisbon.

The AD has ruled out an alliance with Chega, meaning it will have to get backing from the Socialist Party, something Costa Lobo says will complicate major decisions like the annual budget. “We are in a dire situation where concessions and compromises will have to be made.”

Far Right Gains (8:20 p.m.)

Chega comes out as the biggest winner, significantly increasing the number of seats in Parliament, according to the RTP exit poll. It will get between 40 and 46 seats. That compares with 12 lawmakers in 2022 and one in the 2019 election.

Like other far-right parties in Europe, Chega has achieved a rapid rise — mostly because of its leader Andre Ventura. The 41-year-old former tax inspector and football commentator on television has appealed to a growing number of disgruntled voters by blaming the successive center-left and center-right governments for what he says is systemic corruption in Portugal.

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