Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has won a second term as Portugal’s president, in an election marked by record abstentions as the country battles a third wave of coronavirus cases.
Rebelo de Sousa, 72, who had been widely expected to win another term, took 60.7% of the vote, with almost all the results declared amid a very low turnout of around 40%.
“The most urgent tasks is to combat the pandemic. This is my priority, in total solidarity with parliament and government, Rebelo de Sousa said in his victory speech.
Socialist candidate Ana Gomes came second with 13 per cent, while right-wing populist Andre Ventura came third with 12 per cent. A close ally of European far-right parties, Ventura dubs himself ‘anti-system’.
The polls took place as the number of COVID-19 deaths broke records for the seventh day in a row on Sunday, 25 January at 275. The number of people in hospital is also at an all-time high.
Portugal has the world’s highest rates of new daily infections and deaths per 100,000 population, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Rebelo de Sousa has worked closely with the centre-left minority Socialist government, supporting its pandemic efforts. The president holds a largely ceremonial role but can veto certain laws and decree states of emergency, a power Rebelo de Sousa has deployed often since the pandemic began, taking parliament’s lead.
He also has endeared himself to the Portuguese with his easy-going manner. Photographs taken by passers-by of him in public places, such as one last year of him queuing up at a supermarket, routinely go viral.
With the country in lockdown, the election campaign featured none of the usual flag-waving rallies, but restrictions on movement were lifted for polling day.
Almost two-thirds of Portuguese thought the election should have been postponed because of the pandemic, a poll last week by research institute ISC/ISCTE showed.
Authorities increased the number of polling stations and allowed for early voting to reduce crowding. In other precautions, mask-wearing voters were asked to bring their own pens and disinfectant to polling stations.