Portugal votes in election where far right could play kingmaker

Lisbon: Portugal has gone to the polls, in a vote that will either keep the center-left in power or shift the country to the right.

Opinion polls suggest neither the Socialists nor the opposition center-right is likely to win outright.

This could leave the far-right Chega party as kingmaker, although mainstream rivals have vowed to sideline it.

The election comes four months after Antonio Costa’s resignation as prime minister over corruption allegations.

Costa was not named as a suspect, but investigators arrested his chief of staff over alleged irregularities in state contracts.

The case has handed ammunition to André Ventura, who leads the Chega (Enough) party and has focused his campaign on corruption and immigration.

Despite economic growth under the Socialists, Portuguese voters worry about high inflation, deteriorating public services, and a housing crisis.

Ventura, a former center-right councilor and one-time trainee priest, made his name on national television as a football commentator.

He has called for dramatic policy shifts, and under his leadership Chega won 7% of the vote in the 2022 legislative elections.

Polls suggest that it could now double this score, leaving it potentially able to keep a minority center-right government in power — at a price.

The leader of the center-right Democratic Alliance, Luís Montenegro, has said he would not seek Chega’s support for his program of tax cuts and free-market reforms.

The Socialists are led by Pedro Nuno Santos, a former minister under Costa, who has defended the outgoing government’s record.

In eight years of Socialist rule, unemployment has dropped and the economy grew by 2.3% last year.

A total of 10.8 million people are registered to vote in the elections to choose 230 members of parliament.