Portugal: Left gains in regional poll

Photo: esquerda.net.

The Portuguese tax-haven and tourist island of Madeira — a watering hole of Europe's super-rich — was the unlikely site of gains for the Left Bloc and the anti-corruption citizens’ movement Together for the People (JPP) in March 29 elections for the autonomous region’s legislative assembly.

The JPP, whose lead candidate Elvio Sousa promised “a different way of doing politics … favouring the most victimised and the middle class”, won five seats (10.34%) in the 47-seat legislature.

The Left Bloc, which failed to win any representation in the 2011 poll, re-entered the assembly with two seats (3.8%). This was its best ever result in the region.

The Portuguese Communist Party, running in coalition with the Greens, also scored well, doubling its representation to two seats (5.54%).

The biggest loser in the election was the Socialist Party (PS), which stood in a centre-left alliance called “Change” with the Portuguese Labour Party, Party for Animals and Nature and Earth Party.

At the 2011 Madeira poll, these forces, standing separately, won 22.42% of the vote and 11 seats. This time, the “Change” coalition managed to win only 11.41% and six seats.

This result bucks the Portuguese-wide trend. Nationally, the PS has been leading the governing right-wing coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Social Centre-People’s Party in opinion polls for more than a year.

On Madeira, where these right-wing parties have always ruled, the right-wing coalition won 58.02% and 31 seats. This was a drop from 66.19% and 34 seats in 2011.

Left Bloc national spokesperson Catarina Martins welcomed the result, saying: “It’s not easy for the political party that’s been pushed out of parliament to return. This is the greatest representation we’ve ever had on Madeira.”

At the same time, Martins expressed regret that the region would still be run by the political representatives of its main industry — tax evasion.

Newly elected Left Bloc deputy Rodrigo Trancoso, chair of the Madeira capital Funchal’s town council, said the party’s good result was a reflection of a message heard in the street every day during the election campaign: “The Bloc’s really needed in parliament.”

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