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Portugal's general election comes amid corruption allegations and a far-right surge

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Voters in Portugal are going to the polls today to choose a new parliament, which will itself elect a new prime minister. But whether a clear majority will come out of today's vote is anyone's guess. NPR's Miguel Macias reports.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: To understand today's general election in Portugal, we need to go back to 2023.

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LILIANA BORGES: In November of last year, the public prosecutor office ordered searches at 42 locations, including the prime minister's office.

MACIAS: Liliana Borges is a political reporter at Publico in Lisbon. She says prosecutors were investigating possible corruption in the handling of government-appointed energy projects.

BORGES: These searches resulted in the arresting of the chief of staff of the prime minister.

MACIAS: This kicked off an investigation into the socialist party's government cabinet of Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

TEREIXA CONSTENLA: (Non-English language spoken).

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MACIAS: Tereixa Constenla is correspondent in Portugal for the Spanish newspaper El Pais. She says Antonio Costa, the then-prime minister of Portugal, has not formally been accused of any crimes, but he decided that just being investigated was reason enough for him to step down.

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ANTONIO COSTA: (Non-English language spoken).

MACIAS: And call general elections. Fast-forward to today. Portuguese voters go to the polls. And despite the corruption investigation still in progress, no one knows for sure who will win. So who are the players? Liliana Borges again.

BORGES: We have two major parties that have been alternating in the power for the last 50 years. They are the Socialist Party and the Social Democrat Party.

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MACIAS: Two major parties, one progressive, the other one conservative. Tereixa Constenla says polls are predicting a win for the conservatives over the Socialist Party. But there is a third party that everyone is talking about.

CONSTENLA: (Non-English language spoken).

MACIAS: Chega - in English means enough - an anti-system, far-right, fairly new party that really wants to enter the heart of the system, Constenla says. And here's Borges again.

BORGES: Chega is this so-called one-man party.

MACIAS: That man is Andre Ventura. He came out of the main conservative party. They had a slow start five years ago, but now they're projected to grab quite a number of seats in Parliament.

BORGES: They are a party that is extremely populist and claims to be here to solve the corruption problem that Portugal has.

MACIAS: Chega has no real chance to win. But they might hold the key to a coalition government with the conservatives. That is if the conservatives change their stated position so far that they will not govern with Chega. But what are the issues that voters in Portugal actually care about?

BORGES: Voters are probably concerned about housing crisis, low salaries and let's say the education and public health system, too.

MACIAS: Lisbon is one of the most expensive cities in Europe to rent a place to live, and the average monthly salary before taxes is around 1,500 euros, barely enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the capital. There is also a lot of concern about the future of the public education and health systems, traditional pillars of Portugal's democracy - so corruption, housing prices, public systems in question and the far right making an appearance or just today's turn for Portugal to represent Southern Europe's problems. Miguel Macias, NPR News, Seville, Spain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.