Luis Montenegro claims victory for Portugal’s centre-right in snap polls

Luis Montenegro, the leader of Portugal’s opposition centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD) party, has claimed victory in the country’s snap general election after a close-run race against the incumbent Socialists.

Montenegro declared victory early on Monday morning, shortly after the Socialist Party (PS)’s leader Pedro Nuno Santos conceded defeat, but it was unclear whether he would be able to govern without the support of the far-right Chega party, with whom he again refused to negotiate.

The AD and its conservative allies in Madeira won at least 79 seats in the 230-seat parliament, ahead of the PS’s 77. Chega’s parliamentary representation more than quadrupled to at least 48 lawmakers, giving the combined right a majority.

Four seats remained to be attributed after the final count of ballots from abroad.

“It seems inescapable that the AD won the elections and that the Socialists lost,” Montenegro told excited supporters who had gathered in the capital, Lisbon. It was crucial for political parties in the new parliament to act responsibly and “comply with the wish of the Portuguese people”, he added.

It took place against a backdrop of low wages and a high cost of living – worsened last year by surges in inflation and interest rates – coupled with a housing crisis and failings in public healthcare.

Portugal is the latest country in Europe to shift towards the far right. The country returned to democracy 50 years ago after the fall of the fascist dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

“We have a society with no memory,” 21-year-old law student and PS member Alexandra Ferreira told the Reuters news agency, adding that the far-right’s growth made her “very sad”.

Chega leader Andre Ventura, a former law professor and television football pundit, has said he is prepared to drop some of his party’s most controversial proposals – including chemical castration for some sex offenders and the introduction of life prison sentences – if that enables his party to be included in a governing alliance with other right-of-centre parties.

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