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.

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