Portugal: Government punished, left gets boost

October 10, 2009

Portugal's parliamentary elections, held on September 27, changed the political landscape. The governing Socialist Party (PS), which had an absolute majority in 2005 after winning 45% of votes, lost more than half a million votes and fell to 36.56%.

Although it received the most votes, the PS is in a minority in parliament and the only party to lose seats in relation to 2005. The result is its worst since 1991.

This is undoubtedly the result of its anti-social policies. The government chose to save the bankers from bankruptcy instead of establishing public policies for the banks. It passed an employment law making dismissals easier in a country that has nearly 600,000 unemployed, with half of them not receiving unemployment benefit.

It has waged war on teachers and civil servants like none before.

The biggest beneficiary from the drop on the PS vote has been the right-wing Popular Party. The PP has become the third-largest party, up from fourth in 2005.

The far-left Left Bloc (BE) scored the biggest increase compared with 2005. It won more than half a million votes (557,109 in a country of just over 9 million voters), almost 200,000 more than in 2005.

The BE went from being the fifth biggest party to the fourth (third in a several big cities), surpassing the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP).

Nationally, the BE's vote went from 6.38% to 9.85%, with its number of deputies doubled from eight to 16.

The BE will now weigh even more in Portuguese political life and in the upcoming struggles — outside as well as inside parliament. The gains are the result of an intense campaign of continuous contact with workers and popular sectors, and a clear anti-capitalist program with concrete alternative proposals to those of the PS.

In parliament, the BE and PCP together have 31 deputies, representing more than 18% of the votes. Never has there been such a result to the left of the PS.

The PS, a minority in parliament, will be forced to choose between the proposals of the left or else join with the PP on the reactionary right. The Left Bloc will present proposals from its program and mandate — among others, the repeal of the employment law and a tax on large fortunes to finance social security.

After these elections, the political framework is more polarised to the right and left. The political and social struggle will intensify in future months. And the Bloc is stronger than ever.

[Alda Sousa is a member of the national leadership of the Left Bloc. This article was abridged from Internationalviewpoint.org.]