Left Block doubles votes

On 4 October 2015, 9.6 million Portuguese citizens were called upon to elect a new parliament. Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block), a member of the EL, reached a surprising 10.2 percent of the vote which is an unprecedented result and hence became the third strongest force in the country.

In the following, please find some abstracts from an initial analysis of the election results which was prepared shortly after the presentation of the results on the election eve:

Election analysis of the 2015 Portuguese parliamentary elections

By Dominic Heilig

The “austerity parties” of the PaF
1. The conservative electoral alliance “Portugal à Frente” (PaF) is the alliance of the current coalition government between the conservative PSD and the right-wing populist CDS-PP and has emerged as the winner of the election, achieving 36.8 percent of the vote (2011 – PSD: 38.66% / CDS-PP: 11.71%). However, the alliance lost more than 14 percent in comparison to 2011 and forfeits its absolute majority in Parliament.
2. Thus, an alliance of parties which must be counted among the “austerity parties” remains the strongest force in the country which has always proved to be a reliable partner in Brussels for the implementation of the dictates of the Troika and has even advertised this fact during its election campaign.
3. On the one hand, the austerity parties have lost a great amount of votes; on the other hand, they have managed to defend its top position.
4. Now Pedro Passos Coelho (PSD), the Prime Minister, and his coalition partner Paulo Portas (CDSPP) need to find a new coalition partner if they want to keep their positions in the government. It is expected that they will approach the Socialists (PS) first.
5. The decision to stand for election with a common electoral list has not achieved the desired positive effect.
6. Especially the party of Paulo Portas (CDS-PP) suffers from the consequences of the decision to establish a common electoral list with Pedro Passos Coelho’s PSD because CDS-PP will now find it difficult to enter a coalition with the Socialist Party (PS). It remains to be seen whether the electoral alliance of the PaF will last beyond the election eve.
PS – the invisible opposition party
1. The Socialist Party (PS) and its frontrunner António Costa have suffered a major defeat. It has failed to reach its goal of achieving a majority on its own by far.
2. Even though the party may have gained 4 % in comparison to the parliamentary election of 2011 (28.05 %), the party has absolutely failed to become the strongest political force in the country.
3. The Socialist Party only managed to reach 32.4 % of the vote.
4. The party failed to distinguish itself from the coalition government as it can – to a certain extent –be counted among the austerity parties.
5. Furthermore, the PS has failed to provide answers to questions posed to discussion mainly by the radical Left regarding the battle against corruption and shake off its image as the “party of the oligarchs”. Moreover, the arrest of José Sócrates (PS), the former Prime Minister, for accusations of corruption at the end of last year has made this almost impossible.
6. Therefore, during the last days of the election campaign, the PS has called upon the parties of the radical Left to establish a common front against the Conservatives and has hence expressed an invitation to form a coalition towards the CDU (Communists and Greens) and BE (Left Block). If the PS wants to provide the Prime Minister in the future, it is depending on the votes of the radical Left. This scenario, however, can only be deemed realistic if a certain kind of programmatic revolution takes place within the PS.
7. Several changes are looming within the PS. On the election eve the party already announced a special party convention in March 2016 after the presidential elections taking place in January 2016. A shift in the leadership ranks of the party is to be expected.
8. On the other hand a so-called grand coalition between the PS as the junior partner and the conservative electoral alliance PaF seems possible.
Bloco de Esquerda – the new third force
1. Bloco de Esquerda has overcome all party splits (Juntos Podemos, Agir, MAS, Tempo de Avançar, Livre), has grown in strength and has become the third strongest force in the Portuguese parliament.
2. Achieving 10.2 percent, the party has reached its best result in the 16 years of its existence.
3. Despite numerous opinion polls the result was impossible to anticipate; even less so at the beginning of 2015 when the party was predicted to barely reach 3 % (see http://dominic.linkeblogs.de/linksblock-droht-zu-versinken/).
4. Bloco de Esquerda managed to duplicate its disastrous result four years ago (2011: 5.1 %) and reached a result which is comparable to the one it achieved eight years ago (2009: 9.8 %). The party managed to increase its absolute number of votes from 288,923 to more than 545,000.
5. Hence, for the second time (after 2009) Bloco has reached a stronger result than the traditionally strong and stable Communist Party (PSP) which forms an alliance (CDU) with the Greens (PEV). Therefore, the speakers of Bloco are right to call this a “historic” result.
6. Therefore, it is correct to say that Bloco de Esquerda emerges as the only real winner of the evening.
7. Amongst all of the parties, Bloco de Esquerda best succeeded in distinguishing itself from its political competitors (“Faz a Diferença”).
8. It was feared that the Greek re-election and the political decisions taken by its sister party SYRIZA would have negative consequences for Bloco, but this did not prove itself true. The Conservatives used the topic of Greece in its anti-Left electoral campaign.
9. On the one hand, Bloco’s result may be attributed to its ambitious and polarised election campaign against the austerity parties of PSD-CDS/PP-PS (“A government more German than the German government itself”). On the other hand, however, the result is an expression of the fact that Bloco’s voters are sceptical about a potential convergence towards the PS (as demanded by Livre/TdA).
10. It remains to be seen, however, if a coalition between PS and BE is indeed impossible when tolerating the Communist Party (PCP).
11. In their first statements after the election BE party leaders have clearly stated that the coalition government’s loss of its absolute majority should mean the loss of its governmental power.
12. Despite all the joys, the election result may be dangerous for Bloco, as the question about entering a coalition with the PS might reanimate old conflicts which have been put aside during the election campaign, but had pushed BE to the brink of disaster before the campaign.
CDU – the second loser of the elections
1. The traditional electoral alliance (CDU) consisting of the Communists (PCP) and the Green Party (PEV) managed to achieve a modest increase in votes in comparison to 2011 (7.9 %) and reached 8.2 % of the vote.
2. Looking at the absolute number of votes, the electoral alliance reached almost the same amount of votes in 2015 (441,800) as in 2009 (441,147).
3. The Communists’ result, however, is rather surprising since opinion polls have predicted the Communists to score definitely higher than the second left-wing party Bloco de Esquerda and have estimated a result of more than 10 %.
4. The result, however, clearly shows that the alliance can still count on a stable electorate. It even seems fair to say (with a little exaggeration) that it does not matter which parties stand for election – the PCP will always reach a share of 7 to 9 %.
5. During the election eve the PCP already confirmed its oppositional role, but at the same time announced that the PS was in the position to form a government. This statement can be understood as a proposal of tolerance.
translation: transform! europe
For the full version (in German, pdf) click here.