Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called a snap general election for January 30, after parliament threw out the minority Socialist government’s 2022 budget bill last week.
“In moments like this there is always a solution in democracy, without drama or fears … to give the word back to the people,” he said in a televised address on Thursday.
Most Portuguese appeared resigned that an early ballot, even if necessary, will only perpetuate political deadlock and bring more hardship.
An opinion poll by Aximage pollsters released earlier in the day showed that 54 percent of 803 respondents thought a snap election would be “bad for the country”, with 68 percent believing that no party would win a majority of seats in the parliament, known as the Assembly of the Republic.
Rebelo de Sousa’s consultative body, the Council of State, on Wednesday approved his proposal to dissolve parliament following the rejection of the budget bill, ending six years of relative political stability.
“More or less, we were pretty stable, especially given the pandemic situation,” Leonel Pereira, a 66-year-old pensioner in the capital, Lisbon, told the Reuters news agency earlier on Thursday. “Only if they kept it that way a little longer … it would be good for us.”
Marta Amaral, 51, called the election “a necessary evil” and said, “It won’t be good but there’s no other way out.”
A vote alone might not solve the political impasse as opinion polls show that no single party or known alliance is likely to achieve a stable majority.
Still, another Lisbon resident, Sonia Oliveira, 44, was hopeful.
“I hope there will be more coalitions, that they unite more for the good of the people, because we are the ones suffering, nobody else.”
Support for the centre-left Socialists is little changed from the 36 percent they won in the last national election in 2019, with the centre-right Social Democrats in second at about 27 percent.
The only party that stands to clearly benefit from the election is the far-right Chega that could emerge as the third-strongest force in parliament, but has been viewed by political analysts as too toxic a potential partner for any other party.
An election would come at a sensitive time for the country of 10.3 million people, as it is poised to begin deploying 45 billion euros ($52bn) in aid from the European Union to help boost the pandemic-hit economy.
A ballot would elect to parliament 230 legislators, who then propose who forms a government. Given the procedural requirements, a new state budget proposal may not come before parliament until April.