Portugal’s president to meet centre-right PM hopeful after tight election

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 9:23 AM

By Catarina Demony

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s president was due on Wednesday to meet the leader of the centre-right Democratic Alliance (AD), which won a general election on March 10 by a slim margin, whom he is expected to nominate as head of a minority government.

For over a week, conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has been consulting with leaders of main political parties one by one. He was due to wrap up the meetings on Wednesday afternoon with AD leader Luis Montenegro.

On Tuesday, he met Pedro Nuno Santos of the runner-up Socialist Party, who said he expected Montenegro to be nominated to head the government.

The far-right party Chega came third, quadrupling its parliamentary representation and emerging as kingmaker after campaigning on a clean governance and anti-immigration platform.

Montenegro has repeatedly said he would not strike any deal with the populist Chega, whose leader Andre Ventura has demanded a government role in exchange for support, meaning his administration would have to negotiate with other parties to pass legislation on a case-by-case basis.

Ballots from voters abroad were still being counted and provisional results were due to be announced later on Wednesday, with four more parliamentary seats yet to be allocated. The president will announce his choice of prime minister after all the votes have been counted, which could be later on Wednesday.

The AD has so far won 79 seats in the 230-seat legislature, which is expected to hold its first session next week, followed by the Socialists’ 77 seats and Chega with 48.

The government could be sworn in in the first week of April and must present its programme to parliament within 10 days from that date, which is automatically approved unless parliament holds a vote to reject it.

Analysts expect an AD government will be allowed to take over, and see the 2025 budget as its first survival test towards the end of this year. A rejected budget could lead to a new election.

Chega’s Ventura has threatened to vote against the bill if the AD does not negotiate with his party.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)