Mainstream media panic over Portuguese ‘far right’ election success

Yet another media panic over ‘far right’ success followed last Sunday’s parliamentary election in Portugal, where the Chega party more than doubled its support from 7.2% to 18.1%, and quadrupled its number of MPs from 12 to 48.

The nature of this party (led by former sports journalist André Ventura) can be gleaned from its name, usually written with an exclamation mark. It literally means ENOUGH! (i.e. “we’ve had enough”!).

As this name implies, Chega has a broad populist appeal to those discontented with the political system, and has rightly concentrated in recent weeks on the threat to Portuguese farmers from out-of-touch regulators and (more fundamentally) from rapacious global capitalism.

Their campaign was also helped by the circumstances of this election. Socialist prime minister António Costa resigned last November following corruption allegations. Costa’s chief of staff and another close friend are among those already arrested.

Chega is similar to the broad range of European nationalist parties in campaigning against the tidal wive of immigration, but as regular H&D readers will know, there are fundamental ideological differences among the various parties labelled by the mainstream media as “far right”.

Reflecting the opportunist politics characteristic of populism, Chega and Vox leaders André Ventura (above left) and Santiago Abascal put on a show of unity, despite the fact that Chega whips up anti-Spanish sentiment over ancient border disputes.

As with its Spanish counterpart Vox, Chega is a ‘free market’, economically liberal party, and in this respect is very unlike Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, which is economically ‘left wing’ and favours the traditional French ‘big state’.

One good thing about Chega is that its leader André Ventura was among the first leaders of the European ‘far right’ to denounce Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, without any equivocation. In this respect Chega is at the opposite extreme from the Kremlin’s fellow travellers in certain other European anti-immigration parties, such as AfD in Germany, and Éric Zemmour’s ultra-Putinist French party Reconquête.

On the negative side, while Chega has happily appropriated the slogan “God, country, family and work” associated with the dictatorships that ruled Portugal from 1926 to 1974, some of its tax-cutting, state-shrinking policies have more in common with the Reagan-Thatcher style of trans-Atlantic conservatism.

Chega also pursues ‘petty nationalist’ obsessions such as ancient border disputes with Spain, which make it difficult for the party to operate as part of any pan-European alliance of nationalists, though Ventura and Vox leader Santiago Abascal made a great show of Iberian solidarity during the campaign.

Even so, such is the stigma attached to any form of anti-immigration politics that the main Portuguese conservative party (confusingly named Social Democrats) which narrowly won the election but is a long way short of a parliamentary majority, is under pressure to rule out any deal with Chega and instead to patch together a coalition with liberals and centrists.

From a racial nationalist perspective, the entire election was to some extent another charade that avoided fundamental questions. But the substantial gains made by Chega, whatever our doubts about the party, are a positive sign that European voters are rejecting mainstream options.

Vote surge for Portuguese anti-immigration party

Chega! leader Andre Ventura campaigning for today’s Portuguese election

In today’s Portuguese general election the anti-immigration party Chega! (Enough!) advanced to third place after a huge advance from its 2019 vote.

With more than 99% of votes now counted, Chega! is on 7.1% and should have at least eleven MPs in the new Parliament. The party had only just been formed by the October 2019 election when it polled 1.3% and won a single parliamentary seat.

Portugal uses a proportional voting system very similar to that which the UK latterly had for European Parliamentary elections (and which allowed two BNP MEPs to be elected in 2009). This vote surge is one of the most rapid advances ever secured by an anti-immigration party.

For the time being, however, this progress will not fracture the Portuguese political system, because the main centre-left party seems to have won a clear victory over its conservative rivals, and will now have a choice of coalition partners: some combination of far left, green and centrist/liberal.

Moreover Chega! are reactionary populists rather than racial nationalists. Nevertheless, their success today is another welcome sign of voters across Europe being unafraid to express anti-immigration views that would until recently have been marginalised or suppressed. As with last year’s German elections, the defeat of mainstream conservatism could lead to serious questions being asked on the centre-right about their refusal even to consider coalitions with the anti-immigration right.

The far more radical racial nationalist party now known as Ergue-te (‘Rise Up’), which until mid-2020 was the ‘National Renovator Party’, polled only 0.1%. It has never achieved more than 0.5%, but this year seems to have been a record low, taking the party back to its first nationwide election effort in 2002.

A future issue of H&D will examine political trends in Iberia, taking account both of Chega! and of the recent advance of another essentially reactionary but anti-immigration party, Spain’s Vox.

Populist-Nationalist presidential candidate wins almost 12% in Portugal

The Presidential election held in Portugal 24 January was largely ignored or downplayed by the Mainstream Media. This mainly was due to them being preoccupied with Covid, and to a lesser extent the new US President, Joe Biden.

However, the MSM were also not over keen to publish the fact that a candidate whom they described as “far-right wing” came third, winning 11.9% of the vote.

It was no real shock that the incumbent President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (of the ‘centre-right’ party confusingly named Social Democrats) was re-elected for a second term, however the margin of his victory was even bigger than expected.

The election was held during the height of the second wave of the Covid pandemic, proving yet again that elections can be held, even under these circumstances. Portugal – like most of Europe, was under a lockdown on election day, but even so close to 40% of those who could vote, did so.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected by a landslide, winning 60.7% of the votes. He won every district in the country and all 308 municipalities, a result which happened for the first time ever in Portuguese democracy; he won 3,083 parishes out of 3,092.

Chega supporters campaigning in Lisbon

Although a very long way behind Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the election also marked a rise of support for Andre Ventura, leader of the Chega (‘Enough’ in English) party, who came third with almost 12% of the votes, only just behind the second placed candidate, former MEP and Ambassador Ana Gomes, of the Socialist party, who polled 13%. All the other candidates polled less than 5% each, including two rival far left / green coalitions who polled 8.3% combined, and a quasi-libertarian / Thatcherite party who polled 3%.

As would be expected during a pandemic, overall turnout in the election fell to 39.5%, a drop of 9%, mainly due to the automatic registration of overseas voters; this practice increased the number of registered voters to almost 11 million. In Portugal alone, turnout stood at 45.45%, a decrease of 4.6% when compared to the last election held in 2016.

However, the bigger picture is that Portuguese turnouts have been generally declining since the 1980s. For the first few presidential elections after the ‘democratic’ system was introduced in the mid-’70s, turnouts were well over 70%, with a peak of 84% in 1980, but four of the past five elections have seen turnout below 50%.

Under the Portuguese electoral system, a candidate must receive a majority of votes (50% plus one vote) to be elected – as Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa easily did. If no candidate achieved a majority in the first round, a runoff election would occur (i.e. a second round, held between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round – as happens in France, and some other European countries).

In order to stand for election, each candidate must gather 7,500 signatures of support one month before the election and submit them to the Constitutional Court of Portugal. The Court then certifies the candidates who meet the requirements to appear on the ballot. The highest number of candidates ever accepted was ten in 2016.

Voters were also able to vote early (as happened in the 2020 US Presidential Election), starting one week before election day on 17 January 2021. Voters had to register between 10 and 14 January in order to be eligible to cast an early ballot; a total of 246,880 voters requested to vote early in 2021. On January 17,197,903 voters (80.16% of voters that registered) cast an early ballot.

Seven candidates made it onto the ballot paper. In addition, the Court rejected five nominations due to inadequate signatures or other issues, and two intended candidates withdrew before submitting their nomination. One of the candidates who withdraw – Gonçalo da Câmara Pereira, of the Peoples Monarchist Party – urged his supporters to vote for Andre Ventura, however this would only have given the Populist leader another 1%.

Andre Ventura, who only formed Chega in April 2019, said he was very pleased with his result. He was congratulated by Javier Ortega Smith of the Vox Party in Spain and Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally in France.

In the National Legislative Elections in October 2019, Chega came 7th, polling 67,826 (1.29%) – see Heritage and Destiny issue #93 – so their increase in support over the past year or so has been very impressive.

The Citizenship and Christian Democracy Party merged into Chega in 2020, giving it a broader appeal with traditionalist Catholic voters.

However, Chega considers itself a party with nationalist, conservative and what some might call identitarian roots. It defends the promotion of effective justice and the decrease of the State’s intervention in the economy.

The party also presents itself as national(ist) conservative and social conservative. Chega wants a decrease of taxes, considering the current system to be “brutal and aggressive to the ones who work and build wealth”, and that “takes away half of their salary”. It also defends shrinking the bureaucracy, considering it to be one of the main reasons for the “Portuguese competitive economic backwardness”.

Although it could not be classed in anyway “racial-nationalist”, it calls for the ending of mass immigration in Portugal. If elected to the European Parliament in 2024 Chega MEPs are expected to sit with Le Pen’s “Europe of Nations and Freedom” group.

The full election results were;

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Social Democratic Party: 2,533,787 (60.70%)

Ana Gomes, Socialist Party: 541,337 (12.97%)

André Ventura, CHEGA Party: 496,651 (11.90%)

João Ferreira, Portuguese Communist Party + Greens: 180,474 (4.32%)

Marisa Matias, Left Bloc: 164,688 (3.95%)

Tiago Mayan Gonçalves, Liberal Initiative: 134,415 (3.22%)

Vitorino Silva (Tino de Rans): React, Include, Recycle: 122,745 (2.94%)

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