July 31, 2019 / 10:42 AM / 23 days ago

Portugal's Socialists lead election poll, but would not win majority

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s ruling Socialists remain favourites to win a parliamentary election in October but will fail to grab an absolute majority, according to a new poll.

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa addresses the nation from Sao Bento Palace, in Lisbon, Portugal, May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s center-left Socialists were seen winning 35.5% of the vote, according to the survey by Multidados for TV channel TVI published on Tuesday evening.

That was lower than a survey by another pollster Pitagorica last week, which put the Socialists at 43.2%, the highest in any recent survey and close to an absolute majority.

Costa’s main opposition, the Social Democrats, were seen taking 20.3% of the vote, according to Multidados. Last week’s Pitagorica poll gave them 21.6% support.

The Social Democrats and their traditional allies from the conservative CDS-PP two parties had governed together before the last election in 2015, presiding over a period of tough austerity they had to impose under an international bailout.

The Socialists’ combination of fiscal discipline with economic growth has won praise from Brussels and ratings agencies. Growth has slowed somewhat since 2017, but is still expected to outpace the euro zone’s average.

Multidados’ poll was the first it has carried out ahead of the October election and it provided no comparisons of its own.

Under Portugal’s proportional representation system, an absolute majority is achievable with 42% to 45% of the vote.

Majority rule for the Socialists could help the government maintain policies to balance the budget and attract more foreign investment.

But with 35.5% of the vote, the Socialists would fall short of a majority in parliament, meaning they would need the support of another party to form a government.

When the Socialists came to power in 2015, they won the parliamentary support of two left wing parties, the Left Bloc and the Communists. These parties saw support at 14.7% and 5.6% respectively in the Multidados’ poll, compared to 9.2% and 6.8% in last week’s Pitagorica survey.

A potential new kingmaker has emerged as the People-Animals-Nature party (PAN), which, according to the poll, would grab 7.9% of the votes in October. PAN recently won a seat in the European Parliament.

The pollsters surveyed 800 people between July 18 and 28, with a margin of error of 3.5%.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Axel Bugge and Andrew Cawthorne

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