The Socialists (PS), currently in power, were the winners of the European Elections (EE) which took place in Portugal on Sunday, May 26th. In Europe, the turnout was the highest in 20 years; but Portugal was the 6th country with the lowest participation. Actually, this was the lowest turnout in an election in Portugal, ever.
People don’t quite care
The Portuguese behaviour could well be seen as a good interpretation for the people’s general feelings and attitude. First of all: the matter – voting for Strasbourg – is all too abstract for people to care. That is something for politicians, both in Lisbon and Brussels, to question. People don’t feel the influence of the European Parliament in their lives.
But this doesn’t mean people are fundamentally unhappy with the European Union. In spite of the losses of the right-wing parties, the same two traditional ones (the Socialists and the Social-Democrats) got 1st and 2nd, as they always do. Quite different from what is happening in the UK, France, Italy, Germany or Spain, for various reasons. One can see that people didn’t bother to use the EE to punish the usual, traditional ruling parties.
This also means that extremist parties don’t get anywhere. To the left, the results of the Communists were meagre, and there is virtually no other parties aside from the Left Bloc (which, anyway, have eased their opposition to European Union in recent years, by supporting the Socialist government).
Moreover, the new CHEGA (which could be called, literally, the ENOUGH Party) a new party loosely based on the Salvini model, didn’t get any traction whatsoever. The message seems to be: some Portuguese may complain about “gipsies” and blacks in the cafes, but they don’t get to a ballot box to sign up that kind of attitude, even when they are handed the opportunity to do so. The low crime rates and the almost absence of immigration (newcomers from former African colonies came mainly in the eighties, not any more) have a significant impact on this.
The political dilemmas which the Portuguese are going through may be more severe than they look, in the wake of the bailout years and the need to get public finances under control. But they are very different from what we see in other European countries. The kind of polarization that one can see in Portugal is nowhere enough to lead people to protest through the EE.
Anyway, parliamentary elections will be held in October; those will get, for sure, a higher turnout.