Portuguese Ruling Parties Form Pact Against Socialists

Portugal’s right-wing parties form a pact to try to keep the Socialists out of power.

Portugal’s ruling right-wing parties announced on Saturday they would run on a joint list in parliamentary elections later this year.

“We are different parties but we share a culture of compromise and we are able to get along,” Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior Christian Democrat People’s Party, said in Lisbon.

Formalizing their alliance could help Portas’ conservatives and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s liberal Social Democrats defeat the opposition Socialists in elections that are expected to be held in September or October. Polls show the two parties would win more votes by standing as a coalition than by running on their own.

Recent surveys put the ruling parties at just under 35 percent support, three points behind the Socialists. Such an outcome would give neither side an outright majority.

The Socialists have more possible allies. Three far-left parties are projected to win up to 17 percent of the votes combined.

Few expected the coalition to be neck and neck with the Socialists after four years of austerity. Unlike Greece and Spain — other Southern European states that have had to make deep spending cuts and raise taxes in recent years — Portugal also hasn’t seen support surge for a populist, Euroskeptic party.

Socialist Party leader António Costa promised this week to “turn the page” on austerity by reducing social security payments for workers and restoring public-sector pay to pre-crisis levels. The party would also introduce an inheritance tax rather than a 4 percent corporate tax cut advocated by the right.

But Costa also said he would honor Portugal’s bailout commitments and continue to reduce the deficit.

Portugal exited its bailout program last year after canceling the last €2.6 billion tranche of a €78 billion rescue package put together by other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund.