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Portugal faces difficult formation of government

by Dr. Ludger Gruber, Martin Friedek, Luisa Bernhardt

Results of the early parliamentary elections in Portugal

Change of power in Portugal: the centre-right electoral alliance Aliança Democrática (AD) wins by a small margin ahead of the Socialists, who have not only lost their absolute majority after losing a third of their seats but are now only the second strongest force in the Assembleia da República. The weakness of the Socialists directly benefited the right-wing populist Chega party, which quadrupled its result compared to the 2024 elections. Neither the right-wing nor the left-wing camp can unite a majority. The most likely option at present is the formation of a minority government under PSD leader Luis Montenegro.

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Reasons for the early elections

On November 9, 2023, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called early elections for March 10, 2024. The reason for this was the surprising resignation of Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa after Costa's head of cabinet Vítor Escária and a businessman friend were arrested on suspicion of illegal advantage-taking, corruption and bribery as part of an investigation. In addition, the Portuguese Supreme Court opened a separate investigation into Costa's role in the licensing of two lithium mines and other investments in renewable energies.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa did not comply with Costa's wish to have his successor elected by his socialist faction, which had an absolute majority. Due to the agitated political and social mood in the country, numerous demonstrations and a double-digit number of corruption cases and resignations of top members of the socialist government, Rebelo de Sousa decided to dissolve parliament. The president justified the late date for the early elections for March 10, 2024, i.e. months after Costa's resignation, primarily with the need to pass a proper budget for 2024 in order to avoid creating even more instability.

The elections coincided with the 50th anniversary of the so-called Carnation Revolution. In April 1974, the democratic transition in Portugal began, which led to the adoption of the Portuguese constitution in 1976. Until 2015, the center-left Socialist Party (PS) and the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) alternated in power, with the relative election loser tolerating a minority government of the election winner in order to limit the influence of small fringe parties. This form of bipartidismo ended with the 2015 parliamentary elections, the first after the 2011 bailout package from the international institutions (troika) and the subsequent years of strict austerity. The liberal-conservative Partido Social Democrata (PSD) won the 2015 elections, but the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) formed a government led by António Costa with parliamentary support from the two far-left parties CDU and BE. 

The full-length publication is only available in german. 

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Dr. Ludger Gruber


Director KAS office Spain/Portugal +34 91 781 12 04 / +34 91 781 12 02


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