Portuguese Culture

Introducing the Candidates for Portugal’s 2021 Presidential Election

With today’s inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, my thoughts have turned to the upcoming presidential election in Portugal.

This morning, as I was chatting with my friend Manuel in Portugal, I asked him about the presidential election this coming Sunday, 24 January 2021.

My Conversation Today About the Presidential Election

Knowing that Portugal has a multi-party political system, I asked Manuel how many parties are represented on Sunday’s ballot. He said that in a presidential election, the candidates are not voted by a party. Party affiliation is only considered for the elections to the Assembly of the Republic and for city elections. Despite that, he said, several parties back many of the candidates.

To be a presidential candidate in an election, a person must be a Portuguese citizen, over the age of 25, have no criminal record pending, and get at least 7,500 signatures of valid voters on a petition for candidacy.

We talked a bit about how that differs from the process in the United States. He assured me that no businessman would ever be elected as president in Portugal. The last time a businessman tried to be elected, he received only 0.75% of the votes. “And he wasn’t crazy” as the 45th U.S. president is, he said.

There were actually nine people that applied to be on the ballot for Portugal’s presidential election, said Manuel. The election commission approved one person, but he “didn’t get the required 7,500 signatures.” 

What Does the President of Portugal Do?

The President of the Republic is head of State but holds a mostly ceremonial role. The president does have a bit of political influence over what happens in the Government (one of four sovereign bodies in Portugal’s system of government) and can dissolve the Assembly of the Republic if necessary. See my prior blog post, How the Government Works in Portugal, for more details.

The current President of the Republic is Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. 52% of the votes in the first round of voting in January 2016 belonged to him He took the oath of office on 9 March 2016.

To become the president, a candidate must get 50% plus one vote to be declared the winner of the election.

Who Are the 7 Candidates for the Presidential Election in Portugal?

Manuel and I didn’t discuss the specific candidates on the ballot. I had to look them up on Wikipedia. Once I saw the list, I realized that Manuel didn’t tell me the whole story. There are actually 7 successful candidates (who got the required signatures), 5 unsuccessful candidates (who didn’t get the required signatures), 2 who withdrew their candidacy, and 3 who refused their candidacy. For the last group, I presume that other people applied on their behalf.

Successful Candidates for Portugal’s Presidential Election

  1. Marisa Matias. Supporting parties – Left Bloc and Socialist Alternative Movement (between left-wing and far left). Original Slogan – “Força Maior” (“Greater Force”). Presidential candidate in 2016, got 10% of the votes.
  2. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Supporting Parties – Social Democratic Party and People’s Party (center-right and right-wing). Slogan – none. Elected in 2016 with 52% of the vote.
  3. Tiago Mayan Gonçalves. Supporting party – Liberal Initiative (center right). Slogan – “A alternativa liberal” (“The liberal alternative”).
  4. André Ventura. Supporting Party – CHEGA (right-wing to far right). Slogan – “Por Portugal, Pelos Portugueses!” (“For Portugal, for the Portuguese!”). Is the current leader of the CHEGA party and current deputy in the Assembly of the Republic.
  5. Vitorino Silva. Supporting Party – React, Include, Recycle (center). Slogan – “O Povo a Presidente!” (“The People for President!”). Presidential candidate in 2016, got 3.3% of the votes.
  6. João Ferreira. Supporting Parties – Portuguese Communist Party, Ecologist Party “The Greens” (far-left and left-wing). Slogan – “Coragem e confiança. Um horizonte de esperança” (“Courage and confidence. A horizon of hope”). Current member of the European Parliament for the Portuguese Communist Party, vice-chair of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left.
  7. Ana Gomes. Supporting Parties – People-Animals-Nature, LIVRE (center and center-left to left-wing). Slogan – “Cuidar de Portugal” (“Taking care of Portugal”). Served as a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019; suspended her career as a diplomat to enter party politics.

The New President of the Republic

As of today, 20 January 2021, the date of Joe Biden’s inauguration as President of the United States, Portugal’s presidential election hasn’t yet happened. I will update this post after the results of the first round of voting on 24 January. If you look at the chart below, I would hazard a guess that the very popular current president will win a second term.

UPDATED – Election Results

About 40% of the eligible population voted, a low turnout for the presidential election. As expected, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa easily won reelection with 60.3% of the vote.

In the order of their popularity, here are the results of the remaining candidates: 2nd place – Ana Gomes with 12.9%; 3rd place – André Ventura with 11.9%; 4th place – João Ferreira with 4.32%; 5th place – Marisa Matias with 3.95%; 6th place – Tiago Mayan Gonçalves with 3.22%; and 7th place – Vitorino Silva with 2.94%


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