With ascent of conservatives in Portugal, prominent Catholic calls for dialogue

Chega leader Andre Ventura addresses supporters at Marriot Hotel, where the party holds the election night event, in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 10, 2024. / Credit: ANDRE DIAS NOBRE/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Digital, Mar 12, 2024 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

The defeat of Portugal’s Socialist Party and the success of a populist conservative party in the March 10 legislative elections has dramatically shifted the political landscape in the Iberian nation.

The Democratic Alliance, a centrist coalition, elected 79 deputies, two more than it had in the previous legislature. The Socialist Party (PSD), which had 120 parliamentarians, was the election’s loser and elected only 77. However, the conservative party Chega (“Enough”) made huge gains, increasing its seats from 12 to 48.

In its political program, Chega defends the “natural family based on the intimate relationship between a woman and a man,” the authority of parents in the education of their children, the encouragement of birth rates, and the “inviolability of human life in all its phases and dimensions.”

Pedro Vaz Patto, the Catholic chairman of the national Justice and Peace Commission of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, called for dialogue.

“In the face of the results, the challenge that arises now is a challenge to have dialogue between the various parties, especially between the two with the most votes,” he said.

Chega’s leader, André Ventura, called his party’s performance the only “growth data from these elections.” He called for the formation of a government with a “clear majority” in Parliament.

“Only a very irresponsible leader and party will let the PSD govern when we have in our hands the possibility of creating a government of change,” he said. The PSD is the ruling party of the incumbent Portuguese government.

The Democratic Alliance and the PSD have been alternating or joining together to exercise power in the country since 1980. While the Democratic Alliance came in first, it did not obtain the 116 seats in the Assembly of the Republic that it would need to form a government on its own.

The leader of the Democratic Alliance, Luís Montenegro, who is president of the PSD, said he “has well-founded expectations” that the president will call him to form the government. He refuses, however, to ally with Chega, as he promised during the campaign. “Of course, I will keep my word, I would not do such evil to democracy as not to act upon commitments that I made so clearly.”

The general secretary of the Socialist Party, Pedro Nuno Santo, said on Sunday night that the party will “lead the opposition.”

“We will be opposition; we will renew the party and we will seek to recover the Portuguese dissatisfied with the PSD. That is the task ahead of us,” he said.

Portugal has a single-chamber parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. After each election, the president of the republic listens to the elected parties and invites whoever he believes has the best prospects to form a government. If there is no absolute majority for any party, as is now the case, the one chosen is not necessarily the party with the most votes but the one that manages to form a minimally stable government in alliance with others.

On March 12, the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Souza, announced he would begin consulting the parties.

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