Friday, January 21, 2011

Portugal's Road to Nowhere

Portugal is holding presidential elections on Sunday. The centre-right incumbent, Anibal Cavaco Silva, is running for a second and final term in office. He was elected in 2006 with a razor-thin majority of less than 51%. Now, as in 2006, the political left is represented by a spectrum of candidates. One of three things could happen. Silva could benefit from the divided left and be elected again; he could fail to secure 50% of the vote and there will be a run-off election between the two most popular candidates; or he will win by a comfortable margin. The polls suggest he will do better than last time and be re-elected in the first round. The main contender on the political left, Manuel Alegre, has no chance of winning.

A good number of Portuguese voters are protesting budget cuts that the Portuguese government is carrying out to reassure investors, or supporting those protests. This is not a time when the social democrats can profit from the disappointment they have in public policy. They hold the office of Prime Minister, and are associated more directly with budget management than the President is.

There's nowhere left to go.

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