SFL Liberty Report: Libertarian Guide to the Portuguese Parliamentary Election

by Gonçalo Torres

The following interview is the first one of the series SFL Liberty Report by Gonçalo Torres.

Listen to the audible version here.

Or read the interview below: 

Gonçalo Torres: Hi, thanks for tuning in to the SFL Liberty Report.  On the 10th of March Portuguese people went to the polls to vote for a new parliament, hoping to form a new government. However, the results were confusing for Portuguese politics. To help me better understand this new ordeal I am joined by Daniela Francisco, social media director and local coordinator in SFL Portugal. Hi Daniela.

Daniela Francisco:  Hey, Gonçalo, it is such a pleasure to be part of this and thank you so much for the invite. 

GT:  Can you please tell us about the elections? Who are the winners? Who are the losers? Which were the main parties involved? 

DF:  So basically, the party that won was AD, but by a very small margin with only two Parliament members more than the second one which is the Socialist Party. I wouldn’t call that a win. They are really dependent on Chega and Liberal Initiative, the liberal party in Portugal. Liberal Initiative already said that they want to form a coalition. The biggest winners I would say are Chega. They went from 10-15 parliament members to almost 50. They got around 20% of the votes. Another big winner there I would say is  LIvre. They went from one Parliament member to four, so more than 100% growth effectively. I would say that AD the party that won is the biggest loser because they are super dependent on other parties. 

GT: So, AD the center-right party won the elections technically, but they are now very much dependent on Chega, which has seen a huge growth. Chega is a far-right populist party akin to some others in Europe. AD is very much dependent on Chega to form a government to be able to pass the state budget. And so it is in a challenging position. It also means that the Libertarian Party doesn’t have as much power because AD doesn’t need to make a deal with them to form a government. It only needs Chega. Do you believe that a deal between AD and  Chega is possible? Or will we be having elections again by the end of the year? 

DF: So AD is put in a really sticky situation because you have two options. Either AD makes a coalition with Chega and is seen as a far-right party as well, because as you may know, in Portugal we are usually super afraid of the right-wing parties, because of the history that we have. We have had a dictatorship for several decades.

On the other hand, what I think will happen is that AD will not form a coalition and Chega will just vote against the state budget and we will have elections again in six or seven months. I am 90% sure that at the end of the year, we will have elections again, unfortunately. 

GT: As we discussed, Chega is seen as this far-right populist party. They are often linked to Marine Le Pen in France, Meloni in Italy and Orban in Hungary. Do you believe that is correct? Can it be seen as part of the movement in Europe of these populist, right-wing parties sweeping elections?

DF: A lot of historians say that history is basically a cycle, and I think that is plain and simple what it is. In the 20th century, we saw this and it is just history repeating itself in Portugal, even though it takes a little bit longer. Usually, things take a little bit longer to arrive in Portugal, but it couldn’t be any different and by the results, we saw just that. 

GT: So another important issue in Europe right now is how will Europe defend itself against outside threats? It is an issue that we here in Portugal seem to not be very occupied with. It is not a campaign issue, even though Donald Trump has made some comments about not defending countries that do not meet the 2% quota imposed by NATO, which Portugal does not meet. Even still, Portugal doesn’t seem to care, which is remarkable because we have some parties in Parliament that are against NATO and the EU, and it was not a point of friction between parties. Why do you think that is? Why wasn’t this issue discussed during this election? 

DF: So, well, I think we should care about the defense of our country. For example, now in Denmark, women also have to go to do military service just like in Israel. But, in Portugal, I think it is not something that is talked about, because it is not a popular matter. For example, pensions, unemployment and a lot of things were popular, and our country’s defense was not really that popular among voters. So I think that is one of the reasons why it wasn’t talked about. Unfortunately, I think as it happens all the time in Portugal, it is something that we will only talk about when we are in front of the problem. 

GT: While I do agree with everything that you said, I would just like to add that it is also a question of geography. We are very much in our little corner of the world, placed in the edge of Europe and so naturally questions regarding Russia, the safety of Europe, it is just not as relevant due to our geography. Whereas the last episode that we did about Finland, that was a very big part of the election campaign because of the proximity to Russia and the large border with Russia. So that brings me to my next question. What were the main topics of this campaign? 

DF: I would say the main topics of this election were the pensions, the condition of youth here in Portugal because a lot of them have been leaving the country, unemployment, immigration and housing. 

GT: Well, if there is anything that you take away from the Portuguese elections, let it be that the Portuguese people are tired and exhausted of the last years and years of socialist rule and they are crying out for help. They are voting in this populist party that takes advantage of their emotions. And we believe that it is possible for the right parties to step up and provide meaningful change and hope. And I do believe that the liberty movement can play a big part in this change. And this is something to be hopeful for. Thank you, Daniela, for joining me and thank you for listening. 

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