By Sergio Gonçalves and Catarina Demony
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, struck a deal with the right-wing CDS-PP on Thursday evening for a pre-election alliance to boost its chances of winning the general election in March.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, of the Socialist Party (PS), resigned on November 7 following an investigation into allegations of illegality in his government’s handling of agreements on lithium, hydrogen and of data.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called early elections for March 10.
The Social Democrats (PSD), led by Luis Montenegro, said the pre-election agreement, to be signed on Sunday and known as the Democratic Alliance (DA), had “historical inspiration and symbolism”.
Most opinion polls place the PS, now led by Pedro Nuno Santos, neck and neck with the PSD, but a poll published on January 1 shows the Socialists obtaining 34.1% of the vote, compared to 24.8%. for the PSD. The new alliance is expected to strengthen the position of the Social Democrats.
A similar coalition in Portugal in 1979 won an absolute parliamentary majority the following year.
The alliance would also guarantee the return of the right-wing CDS-PP to parliament after it failed to elect any MPs in the last general election in 2022, its leader Nuno Melo said.
Political scientist Adelino Maltez said that even though the CDS-PP failed to gain seats in 2022, the party “was not dead”, still enjoying some public support and media presence: “This is what convinced Montenegro.”
Many analysts fear a post-election impasse given the rise of the populist and protest Chega party.
“A real revival of the AD is impossible because the birth of Chega completely changed the political framework,” Maltez said.
Created in 2019, the far-right Chega party has become Portugal’s third parliamentary force, winning around 7% of the vote in the 2022 elections. Monday’s Aximage poll shows that support for Chega could now reach 16.3%. The PSD has ruled out making it an ally.
The PS has been in power since 2015 and Costa’s first four-year term was won thanks to a far-left alliance with the Left Bloc and the communists.
Nuno Santos successfully coordinated support for this alliance and did not rule out the possibility of a similar alliance this time. The leader of the Left Bloc, Mariana Mortagua, also signaled her willingness to negotiate an alliance.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves and Catarina Demony; editing by Aislinn Laing and Ros Russell)
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