This might be the year of the leftist-populist surge in Europe. Syriza won the Greek elections, Podemos is surging in Spain, and the Five Star movement continues to make noise in Italy. But what about Portugal, the last so-called “PIGS” country? No serious challenger to the established parties has emerged there. The reasons are many and complex, but among them are, as The Financial Times reports, that:
In Portugal […] the left strongly defends the left-leaning constitution and the constitutional court, a political battleground during the country’s €78bn bailout. The so-called clientelism — handing out public sector jobs in return for votes — that seriously discredited the mainstream parties in Greece is less rife in Portugal, political scientists say. The two main parties have navigated the crisis well, Mr Costa Pinto says, with the main opposition Socialists appeasing leftwing supporters with liberal policies on abortion and gay marriage.Above all, the thought of a radical new movement putting the country’s eurozone membership at risk is anathema to most Portuguese voters, with only 38 per cent seeing the euro as “a bad thing”, according to a Eurobarometer poll in October.
This represents an exception to the emerging pan-European alignment of new anti-austerity parties and older, more cautious, and more established blocs of parties. As Portugal also has an election this year, it will be interesting to see if one party comes forward to seize the available political real estate, or whether the Portuguese continue to buck the trend.