Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters Move Portugal to the Right amid Economic Frustrations

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Voters Move Portugal to the Right amid Economic Frustrations

Article excerpt

Businessman Pedro Passos Coelho will lead a coalition government after voters handed the center-right a convincing victory. Portugal's bailout and austerity measures were central issues.

Portuguese gave their government a severe scolding for its handling of the economic crisis during Sunday's snap general elections, handing the center-right opposition a solid mandate to govern through at least another two years of recession.

The vote ended months of uncertainty since the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates collapsed in March after it lost all parliamentary support for a series of austerity measures, even from its allies.

Pedro Passos Coelho, a businessman with no prior experience in office, led the Social Democratic Party (PSD) to a commanding victory in the unicameral Parliament with almost 39 percent of the vote, or 105 of the 250 seats.

The result was expected following growing frustration with the government's handling of the economic crisis, although many analysts say the convincing victory, regardless of political background, is good news.

"In moments of crisis, and this one will last for some time, it's good to have political clarity to take rough decisions. This is good news. A clear outcome is good news, regardless of ideology," says Janis A. Emmanouilidis, a senior policy analyst and head of the European Politics and Institutions program in the Brussels-based European Policy Center.

"The economic crisis has functioned as a catalyst," Mr. Emmanouilidis adds, referring to a series of electoral defeats from incumbent governments, not only in peripheral countries but throughout Europe. These include Spain, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Greece.

Mr. Passos Coelho vowed that he would "not rest until Portugal returns to growth." But he also warned citizens to arm themselves "with a big dose of courage to overcome difficulties because results will not come in two days," but in "two or three years. …

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