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Portugal vote a verdict on austerity?

Friday, October 02, 2015 - 01:40

Following four years of austerity, Portugal faces a general election this weekend with a more stable economy, but one that many Portuguese say has come at a high social cost. David Pollard reports.

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Picture-postcard Portugal - a tourist favourite. But one many Portuguese couldn't wait to leave. Between 2011 and 2014, nearly half a million went elsewhere. Many aged 30 or under, like these students. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANAGEMENT STUDENT FILIPE FERNANDEZ, 20, SAYING: "I think I have to go abroad to have a better job. I have that in my mind since I entered university." Emigration's a top issue in this weekend's election. Incumbent prime minister Pedro Passos Coehlo made his name by steering Portugal through its debt crisis. A 78 billion euro bailout led to protest, three years of cuts, and a jobless rate that peaked at 18%. Portugal's successful bailout exit last year proves the medicine worked, says Passos Coehlo - but more's needed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CANDIDATE OF CENTRE-RIGHT RULING COALITION AND CURRENT PRIME MINISTER, PEDRO PASSOS COELHO, SAYING: "We must regain our capacity, our ability to have a stronger recovery.'' His main opponent, the Socialist Antonio Costa warns voters what they'll get if they re-elect Passos Coelho. (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) SOCIALIST LEADER AND CANDIDATE TO PRIME MINISTER, ANTONIO COSTA, SAYING: "If they win, you know what's to come: less wages, less dignified work, fewer jobs, more austerity." But the ex-Lisbon mayor was also a one-time interior minister under Jose Socrates - the former Socialist prime minister imprisoned last year on suspicion of corruption. Costa may suffer by association, says politics expert, Pedro Magalhaes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR AT LISBON UNIVERSITY PEDRO MAGALHAES, SPEAKING ABOUT COSTA, SAYING: "He is not seen as someone who is a clear cut with the previous socialist government. The previous socialist government ended with a bailout, this is something that left people very angry.'' A knife-edge vote's expected. But if Passos Coelho were to win, he'd be the EU's first bailout leader to get reelected - in an election seen as a vote on austerity itself.

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Portugal vote a verdict on austerity?

Friday, October 02, 2015 - 01:40