October 7 (AP) – The center-left Socialist Party got the most votes in Portugal’s general election Sunday, leaving it poised to continue leading the government for another four years.
With 226 seats in the 230-seat parliament awarded in the official count, the Socialists reached 106 seats, compared with 77 for the second-place Social Democratic Party.
The parliament chooses a government, usually taken from the party that has the most lawmakers.
The Socialists, however, fell short of a parliamentary majority. They could take power as a minority government or pursue alliances with other left-of-center parties to pass legislation as they did in their last term with the Portuguese Communist Party and the radical Left Bloc.
Antonio Costa, the Socialist leader and incumbent prime minister, said he would start talks with other parties with the aim of securing a political agreement for the next four years.
“Political stability is essential for Portugal’s international credibility,” Mr. Costa said in a victory speech.
As other Socialist parties have lost ground across Europe in recent years, Mr. Costa’s administration won respect by proving wrong the doubters who said it would overspend.
The Left Bloc, which had won 19 seats in the incomplete count, said it was ready to open negotiations with the Socialists on a government program.
The Portuguese Communist Party had 10 seats and the Christian Democrats five.
Small fringe parties also picked up a handful of seats, and some of them could be targets for the government to recruit support in parliament.
Mr. Costa took power four years ago on a promise to undo austerity measures introduced during Europe’s financial crisis, when Portugal needed an international bailout.
Now his Socialists reaped the rewards of Portugal’s economic rebound in recent years. Annual growth climbed from 0.2% in 2014 to 2.1% in 2018, and unemployment dropped by around half, to 6%, over that period.
The budget deficit long a torment for Portugal as governments routinely overspent is now close to zero under the financial stewardship of Finance Minister Mario Centeno, who also chairs the meetings of finance ministers from the 19 European nations that used the shared euro currency.