Why the socialists are a hit in Portugal

Why the socialists are a hit in Portugal

Never have the French and Portuguese socialist parties seemed so distant from each other as this Sunday, January 30. At the lowest in the polls, the candidate of the tricolor PS, Anne Hidalgo, arrived in fifth place in the “Popular Primary”, a citizen consultation intended to bring out a single candidacy on the left. At the same time, the outgoing Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, whom she knows well, won an absolute majority of seats in Parliament (117 MPs out of 230). He will therefore be able to govern without the support of radical left parties, unlike previous years.

The Lusitanian PS has something to envy its French equivalent, endangered. “He had already obtained such a majority in 2005, but then he embodied the alternation. This time, he is in power, which is even stronger”, argues Yves Léonard, professor at Sciences Po and author ofHistory of contemporary Portugal (Chandeigne editions). However, the bet was risky for Antonio Costa: he did not want to give in to the demands of the two movements that supported him, the Left Bloc and the Communist-Green coalition. In October, they rejected the 2022 budget, which they considered socially insufficient, precipitating new elections.

In fact, the Portuguese have welcomed the seriousness of the policy pursued by the Socialists since their return to power in 2015. They first broke with the austerity policy of the previous government, putting an end to budget cuts and upgrading services public and social minima – the minimum wage has gradually increased from 590 euros in 2015 to 775 euros in 2021. “Antonio Costa has succeeded in carrying out a policy of social justice without breaking with a certain fiscal rigor”, specifies Yves Léonard.

portuguese miracle

As a result, Portugal presented a budget surplus in 2019, the first since the Carnation Revolution of 1974 and the end of the Salazarist dictatorship. At the same time, it has chained years of growth and a halving of unemployment (12.4% in 2015 to 7.2% in 2020). Results beyond the expectations of its European partners, to the point that we have spoken of a “Portuguese miracle”. Hailed for his management of the Covid-19 crisis, Antonio Costa also benefited from the weakening of the conservatives, undermined by the rise of the far-right Chega party, which finished 3rd in the ballot and entered Parliament.

Above all, the Portuguese PS continues to reap the fruits of its political shift in 2014. notes Yves Léonard. Above all, the divide between the left and the right remains marked in Portugal.” A major difference with France, where the emergence of the centrist party of Emmanuel Macron was made to the detriment of the socialist party. A political recomposition that Portugal has not known.

Clement Daniez