Lisbon (dpa) – Portuguese head of state Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has secured a second five-year term in a country that has been hit particularly hard by the corona pandemic with a runaway victory.
The 72-year-old conservative politician made more than 61 percent in the presidential election on Sunday, the national election authority announced after counting more than 99 percent of the vote. The former law professor and TV journalist got nine percentage points more than in his first victory five years ago. He avoided a round by an absolute majority on February 14.
The head of state has a lot of power in Portugal. The president can rescind veto rights over laws and parliament and call new elections. For Portugal, it was the tenth presidential election since the 1974 carnation revolution.
Prime Minister António Costa’s Socialist Party (PS) candidate Ana Gomes landed this time with a good 12.7 percent, far behind in second place. However, she had not enjoyed her party’s support, as Costa got along politically with Rebelo de Sousa. The third-placed head of the right-wing populist Chega! (Enough!), André Ventura, achieved an unexpectedly good result with just under 11.9 percent.
The mood was overshadowed by the dramatic worsening of the corona crisis in Portugal. The country has just been declared a high-risk corona area by Germany. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days was recently around 750. This is one of the highest values in the world.
Due to the pandemic, numerous politicians and other celebrities had called for the election to be postponed. In a study commissioned by the weekly “Expresso”, 57 percent of the participants were in favor of a move.
Many voters probably stayed at home for fear of the virus: according to preliminary official information, the turnout was just under 40 percent, well below the previous record set in the 2011 presidential election at 46.5 percent.
Rebelo de Sousa, who has been in office since 2016, is considered a very close connection to the folk politician who, as head of state, likes to hug, kiss and comfort people in the streets. At times, he also appears as an active helper: Last August, the wiry Catholic in the Algarve rushed into the sea to rescue two women whose kayak had capsized.
But it is not only such actions that give Rebelo de Sousa recognition and prestige. He is also highly regarded for not only criticizing and controlling the left-wing government of Prime Minister António Costa, but also supporting it as a conservative politician. He attaches great importance to the political stability of the country. The partnership between Rebelo and Costa, including declaring and designing the Corona State of Emergency, has been pretty much smooth so far.
A total of 10.86 million people were called to vote – including the Portuguese living abroad. The emigration country, which also lost hundreds of thousands of citizens during the euro crisis a few years ago, thus has more electorate voters than inhabitants (approximately 10.3 million).