LISBON (APP) – Portugal’s ruling centre-right coalition won a general election Sunday seen as a referendum on its austerity policies, although it may not hold onto its absolute majority in parliament, near-complete results showed.
Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s “Portugal Ahead” coalition took 39.16 percent of the vote, according to results from more than three-quarters of constituencies, with the opposition Socialists of former Lisbon mayor Antonio Costa trailing by more than seven points.
Costa, who campaigned on a promise of easing some of the painful reforms imposed on western Europe’s poorest country, was quick to concede defeat but ruled out stepping down as party leader.
“The Socialist Party did not achieve its stated objectives, and I take full political and personal responsibility,” Costa told supporters in the capital. But he added: “I will not be resigning.”
Sunday’s victory by the centre-right, after four years of swingeing austerity that sent unemployment and emigration soaring, marks a rare case of a bailed-out country re-electing its government.
However, early indications pointed to the coalition between the premier’s Social Democrats and the conservative Popular Party falling just short of the 116 seats needed to control the 230-seat chamber, leaving them outnumbered by the Socialists and MPs from smaller leftist parties.
Passos Coelho campaigned on his record of having returned the country to fragile growth following one of the worst crises in its history and had warned that the Socialists could undo the progress.