Portuguese Elections
Austerity Isn’t Poison

Portugal’s center-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, had a surprisingly strong finish in Sunday’s elections: It lost its majority in the parliament, but beat its Socialist rivals by a mile. The WSJ:

The unexpectedly strong showing boosted the chances, but didn’t assure, Mr. Passos Coelho’s re-election to a second four-year term.

His governing coalition—which joins his Social Democratic Party with the smaller Democratic and Social Center Party—won 104 of the 230 seats in Parliament, according to near-complete official returns.

Former Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa’s Socialist party, which promised to ease some belt-tightening measures but stick to European Union standards of fiscal restraint, won 85 seats.

Two radical antiausterity parties—the Left Bloc and a coalition of Communists and Greens—won a total of 36 seats.

The Socialists, who pledged to ease the pain of some austerity measures without abandoning the EU program, led in the polls until late August, at which time waffling voters warmed again to Passos Coelho. On Sunday night, the Prime Minister pledged to seek compromise with the Socialists in order to form a government. Socialist leader Antonio Costa gave no guarantee that he would be receptive, saying, “It is clear that an expressive majority voted for a political change.”

Those are softer words than he used to have for Passos Coelho—Costa said during the campaign that he’d enter into coalition with the current government “only if aliens land on earth.” As one analyst summed it up , the election “wasn’t so much a victory for the government as a defeat for the Socialists.” Other European leaders, especially Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, will be taking heart: Austerity hasn’t proved to be as poisonous as expected.

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