Portugal votes in snap election amid Covid-19, no clear winner in sight

Portuguese voted on Sunday in a snap parliamentary election with no clear winner in sight and uncertainty increased by potentially low turnout amid record coronavirus infections.

A late surge by the opposition centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) clawed away the ruling Socialists’ once comfortable poll lead, with the two sides in a statistical tie according to final surveys.

With one in 10 voters still undecided according to recent polls, analysts said the outcome of the election in the nation of 10 million people is wide open.

Ballot stations opened at 8am and will close at 8pm with official results expected a few hours later.

The prospect of another weak minority government comes as Portugal is trying to boost its tourism-dependent economy, badly hit by the pandemic.

A stable government is needed for Portugal to make the most of a 16.6-billion-euro package of EU recovery funds it is to receive by 2026.

“Portugal needs stability after these two difficult years of fighting against the pandemic,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa, in office since 2015, told a final rally in second-city Porto on Friday.

During the campaign, Costa received messages of support from Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who called the Portuguese premier a “tireless defender of social justice”.

Sunday’s snap polls were called after two far-left parties that propped up Costa’s minority government sided with right-wing parties to reject his 2022 draft budget in October.