First of all, what do we consider as extremism? “Extremisms or radicalisms will always be linked to movements, parties or people who use the demagogy technique, that is, someone who says something is wrong, but does not present a credible alternative. It is about easy criticism and making criticism according to what they know people want to hear”, says João Paulo Pereira, PhD in Psychology.
When analysing the Portuguese society, we can say that usually people tend to follow balanced perspectives, as explained by João Paulo Pereira. However, the current climate of insecurity is now a favourable, almost fertile ground, for the proliferation of some ideas that try to provide an answer to the problems that people are experiencing at the moment. “In a context in which people are emotionally involved, people tend to quickly move towards radicalism”, he told The Portugal News.
“There are people at the moment in Portugal who are experiencing very complicated times and that is why it is not difficult for these people, led by a survival instinct, to let themselves be led to certain types of ideas without discussing their viability”, he states.
However, he trusts that “the Portuguese people have maturity. People also want greater balance. I believe that impact will not happen.”
Do we have extremism in Portugal? In his opinion, extremism in Portugal exists, but doesn´t pose a great risk: “It will have its high point under determined circumstances”, but not a very predominant presence.
The Chega party, led by André Ventura, has gained notoriety as a right-wing party in Portugal. The party has in their agenda the implementation of measures that have caused controversy, and even some books about this phenomenon have already been written.
Some of the most controversial measures are: Chemical castration for paedophiles, life imprisonment (in Portugal the maximum penalty provided in the Criminal Code is up to 25 years), application of income tax equal for all, (without respecting the principle of contributive capacity that justifies the existence of progressive rates,) and a ban on abortion (except in cases dangerous to the woman, foetal malformation or sexual abuse).
However, in spite of all criticism that has been targeted towards the party, the Presidential candidate of Chega achieved 11 percent of the votes in the recent election. This result represents an increase in Chega’s followers, even taking into account that the context of a presidential election is different from a legislative election, first being more focused on the individual that will be chosen to be the president of the Republic.
João Paulo Pereira sees this far-right party as a “circumstance” because it’s not representative of the Portuguese people. “Chega is based on a single person. If we remove him from the scene the rest is almost empty, there is no alternative protagonist there. He grabbed a set of ideas that he found relevant and that could answer some of the Portuguese's needs. I think it's like a match, lit, burned and then extinguished, I may be wrong but I don't see this discourse of Chega staying in what represents the Portuguese people”.
“Extremisms are even part of the democratic balance”, he says, adding that: “these radical positions are often essential for balance because only in understanding that this radicalism doesn’t work or doesn’t have answers that people expect, will people try to find and discuss other options. Things are not perfect, what exist are answers which are closer to the expectations that people have”.
Even on 25 April 1974, the Portuguese revolution, known as the Carnation Revolution, which ended more than 40 years of dictatorial regime in Portugal, took place without much turmoil. Then, after the revolution, during successive provisional governments: “There was turmoil of radicalism on the right and radicalism on the left, until we found a certain balance, which is perfectly normal, and is what is happening in Portugal. Although the Portuguese are known for being balanced people, we do not escape this rule”, he told The Portugal News.
“Left-wing radicalism, right-wing, anarchists, will always exist in societies. In fact they are part of the balance of any society. Now, the issue is trying to understand what its representativeness is and I think that in Portugal we are experiencing an illusion of representativeness of some extremisms. I may be wrong but it is what I think according to what is being learned from the Portuguese people, especially since April ‘74”, he said.
Concluding, “I believe in the Portuguese ability to decide” in key times, even when some “Portuguese reveal some racist or other kinds of extremist speech, the representativeness of the Portuguese people is not like that”.