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Socialists win reelection in Portugal, eye significant investments

Socialists win reelection in Portugal, eye significant investments

February 01, 2022: -Portugal’s center-left Socialist Party won a third straight general election Sunday, which returns it to power as the country prepares to deploy billions of euros of European Union aid for the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a ballot between an increase of coronavirus cases blamed on the omicron variant and with around 1 million infected voters who allowed to leave home to cast their ballots, the Socialists were elected by 112 lawmakers in the 230-seat parliament.

With 98.7% of votes counted, the Socialists had 41%, which was comparing with 28% for their main rival, the center-right Social Democratic Party, taking at least 68 parliamentary seats. Eighteen seats remained to be allocated.

It was unclear if the Socialists would reach 116 lawmakers, allowing it to enact legislation alone, or if it would decrease short of that number and need to cut deals for the support of smaller parties. Late results could come on Monday.

Socialist leader António Costa, which expects to return to his post as prime minister, immediately offered an olive branch to his adversaries. He said he would encourage alliances with different parties in parliament to overcome the country’s pandemic-inspired economic difficulties.

“The mission is to turn the page on the pandemic and bring affected sectors back to life,” Costa said in a victory speech.

The stakes are high for the coming administration. Portugal, a country of 10.3 million people and the poorest in Western Europe, is poised to start deploying 45 billion euros of aid as a member of the EU to help spur the economy after the pandemic.

Two-thirds of that sum is intended for public projects, such as major infrastructure, which gives the coming government a financial bonanza. The other third is to be awarded to private companies.

A parliamentary majority would smooth the coming government’s path in allocating those funds in a country whose economy has been struggling to gain traction since the turn of the century.

The last two Socialist administrations were minority governments. Since coming to power in 2015, the Socialist Party relied on their smaller allies in parliament, the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist Party, to ensure the annual state budget had enough votes to pass.

The Socialists promised to increase the minimum monthly wage by more than 800,000 people to 900 euros by 2026. It is currently 705 euros ($800). The Socialists want to “start a national conversation” about working four days a week instead of five.

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