LISBON (Portugal) -- The president of Portugal announced Thursday that he will dissolve parliament and call a snap election for January 30, following defeat by the minority Socialist government in a crucial vote regarding post-pandemic plans in Europe to spend billions in EU funding.
It was widely anticipated that the announcement in a televised address to nation would be made. Preparation by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal will be on the ballot box two years earlier than planned if the government's budget proposal for 2022 is rejected by parliament. This happened last week.
The ballot will elect 230 legislators to parliament. Political parties then determine who forms a government.
This election is a sensitive one for the country with 10.3 million inhabitants. It is about to start deploying 45 billion euros ($52billion) of EU aid to boost the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rebelo de Sousa stated that the Portuguese must decide what they want in the next few years. "These are decisive" because of the wealth of funds.
He stated, "This is the crucial moment for a long-lasting rehabilitation from the worst pandemic of the last 100 years and the economic and social crisis it caused."
He said that the 2022 spending plan was "an especially important budget in an especially important time."
Recent polls indicate that the center-left Socialist Party will win election but not a majority in parliament.
As it stands, the COVID-19 epidemic shouldn't disrupt elections, although health officials have warned of a possible winter resurgence within Europe.
Portugal is now largely covered by COVID-19 thanks to a popular mass vaccination campaign. Since mid-September, the country has been reporting an average of fewer than 1000 new cases per day and daily deaths in single figures.
The 2022 state budget predicted GDP growth of 4.8% and 5.5% next years, respectively, with a 6.5% unemployment rate, which is roughly the same as right now.
This has helped to increase the popularity of the Socialist Party, with polls predicting that it will win comfortably with around 39% of the vote. However, this would leave the Socialists in need of parliamentary support to legislate and Portugal back at its roots before the recent political crisis.
The traditional center-right parties of the opposition are in turmoil. The main opposition Social Democratic Party as well as the smaller Popular Party are involved in leadership challenges.
Popularity of the Left Bloc and Communist Party, both hard-left parties, has declined to single figures since recent elections.
In 2019, 10 parties won seats at the 230-seat parliament. This is a trend towards political fragmentation, which forces parties to bargain with one another.
The most striking thing is the rise and success of Portugal's first right-wing populist Party, Chega! (Enough! It was established just three years ago. It currently has one lawmaker. However, polls suggest it could win as many as 20 seats in an electoral vote, potentially serving the role of kingmaker.