Portugal (President) 2011
Portugal held a presidential election on January 23, 2011. Portugal’s President, despite having theoretically wide powers, has been a ceremonial position following the precedents set by the inaugural President of democratic Portugal, António Ramalho Eanes, who served between 1976 and 1986. Portugal’s President is elected using the traditional two-round system (only one election, in 1986, went to a runoff), and candidates must gather the signatures of between 7,500 and 15,000 citizens in order to be eligible to run.
The incumbent President, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, is a member of the centre-right opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) and served as Prime Minister between 1986 and 1996, pursuing a right-wing liberal agenda while in office. Despite serving alongside José Socrates’ Socialist government, relations between the government and the President have been rather smooth. Notably, Cavaco Silva, despite being a practicing Catholic, signed into law legislation which legalized abortion and same-sex marriage in Portugal. In line with his predecessors in the office, he ranks as one of the country’s most popular politicians.
Elected to the office in 2006 by the first round, Cavaco Silva was eligible to run for reelection. He was supported by the PSD in addition to the right-wing CDS-PP and the smaller Hope for Portugal Movement. He was opposed by Manuel Alegre, nominated by the PS and supported by the Left Bloc and two smaller parties. A poet, Manuel Alegre had run as a PS dissident in 2006, coming in second ahead of the PS’ official candidate, former President and Prime Minister Mário Soares. The third major candidate was Fernando Nobre, a well-known and respected NGO worker and doctor (and a man with a weird political trajectory, being a member in the past of the PS, PSD and even the BE). The Communist-led CDU coalition nominated Francisco Lopes. Defensor de Moura, a PS dissident, ran as an independent while Madeira regional parliamentarian José Manuel Coelho, an erratic and outburst-prone politician, ran for the New Democracy Party (a small right-wing party which holds one seat in Madeira). Coelho likes calling members of the Madeiran PSD ‘fascists’ and got thrown out of Parliament in Madeira for showing a Nazi flag to members of the PSD.
Turnout was a low 46.63%. Here are the results:
Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD, CDS-PP, MEP) 52.94%
Manuel Alegre (PS, BE, PDA, PCTP) 19.75%
Fernando Nobre (Ind) 14.1%
Francisco Lopes (PCP, PEV) 7.14%
José Manuel Coelho (PND) 4.5%
Defensor de Moura (PS dissident) 1.57%
In 2006, Cavaco Silva had won all districts except for Beja, a traditional Communist stronghold, which went for the PCP’s candidate. This year, Cavaco Silva won all districts. He won his strongest results in the traditionally conservative and Catholic north, where the PSD does best in national elections. He won his weakest results, as expected, in the southern region of the Alentejo, a stronghold of the left (specifically the PCP). In Beja, he won 33.3% against Lopes (PCP)’s 26.4%. In Évora, he won 37.6% against 24.7% for Alegre and 21.7% for Lopes. In Madeira, a traditional stronghold of the PSD, he won 44% with local candidate José Manuel Coelho taking 39% of the vote. That might be a good sign for his party going into regional elections in Madeira later this year.
It would be hard to take out much of a low-turnout and rather useless election which reelected a popular politician whose popularity by far surpasses that of his party. Though the PSD has an edge over the governing Socialists in case of an early election brought about by the economic crisis, talks of a snap election are probably over-hyped though Socrates’ government is in a minority situation.