Campaigning for the 2015 Portuguese general elections will only start in earnest this Sunday, leaving political parties with fewer than two weeks to tackle rising abstention and perceived disinterest among the electorate.
By no means scientific, but several registered voters to whom The Portugal News spoke to this week suggested they were disinclined to cast a ballot.
A large number of people indicated they would not vote, with most of these located in southern Portugal. This was not uniquely due to disenchantment with the political system, but many admitted they did not feel they knew enough about politics to make an educated vote.
There were also several people who did say they would give up part of their Sunday on 4 October, but only to cast a blank vote in protest against what they see to be the failings of the current political hierarchy.
However, one reader from Oporto who spoke to The Portugal News on Thursday, said he was planning to cast a vote and “so too would 95 percent of the people I know up here.”
Having lived in the Algarve for a number of years, he agreed that abstention would be high in the south, but said people were more mobilised in the north to champion regional causes and would back the political party they best felt empowered to protect their local interests.
The most recent opinion poll conducted by Aximage for Jornal de Negócios and Correio da Manhã revealed that the percentage of those who do not intend to vote, had jumped from 33.2 percent in July to 36.2 percent in September, with the people contacted in Lisbon and further to the south the largest proportion of those interviewed.
Researchers also placed the current coalition as the expected winners of the ballot for the first time, with the PSD-CDS alliance projected to collect 38.9 percent of the vote, while the Socialists (PS), the habitual pace-setters of the past year, have seen their share of the vote slump from 38 percent in July to 33.3 percent in September.
The third biggest amount of votes goes to Communist Party (CDU) with 8.5 percent, followed closely by those who intend casting a blank vote, or spoiling the ballot paper, who number 8.1 percent.
The Left Bloc, once Portugal’s third largest political party, having seen their popularity drop steadily since the glory days of Francisco Louçã, are now only expected to receive 4.5 percent of the vote.
Other opinion polls published in recent months reveal a similar trend, with no party expected to reach more than 40 percent, as opposed to abstention figures, which continue unabated on an upward curve.
The other near-certainty from those compiling the opinion polls is that no party, including the current coalition government, will be able to govern with a majority as has been the case the past four years.
However, José Sócrates’s final term in office, from 2009 to 2011, saw him take charge of a minority government, with the Socialists doing so without forming a coalition, instead only seeking the assistance of the opposition to make major legislative decisions such as the passing of the state budget.
The Socialists and the Communists have in recent weeks been heard flirting with the idea of a coalition, with the Left Bloc making similar noises, but based on certain conditions.
A three-party coalition could result in a parliamentary majority of 116 seats, based on current polls, but many moderate Socialists would be expected to oppose a move which would see a strong far-left component to the government.
Communist Party leader Jerónimo de Sousa, has not ruled out a post-election agreement with the Socialists, and has stated that “if it is the will of the people, we are willing to take on a role in government to defend the rights of workers.”
However, the PCP’s euro-scepticism and recent calls for an assessment of Portugal’s continued participation in the single monetary unit could also see a breakdown in post-electoral talks.
Whatever the results, and judging by Portugal’s usually accurate opinion polls, the political panorama is set undergo change after 4 October, though who will lead, with what majority, and with whom, all remain questions which should only be answered during the early hours of 5 October.