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Exploring the Momentum of the Portuguese Right Wing

Luis Montenegro is now designated to assume the position of Prime Minister of Portugal on April 2. Why is this noteworthy? Why should anyone pay attention to Portuguese politics? This election saw a far-right surge, although Montenegro is a member of the center-right Democratic Alliance, which could have broader implications for Europe. It also saw the highest voter turnout in thirty years, with approximately 66% of eligible voters participating. Montenegro’s Democratic Alliance garnered 29% of the votes while picking up three seats in Parliament whereas the Socialist Party, the center-left, garnered 28% of the vote while dropping forty-two seats. However, Chega (meaning “Enough!” in English), Portugal’s far-right party, obtained just over 18% of the vote and gained thirty-eight seats. This indicates a massive growth in support for Portugal’s far right as in 2019 Chega only earned 1.3% of votes and 7.2% in 2022. Despite accusations of spreading fascist ideology, Chega is now the third-largest political party in Portugal. 


Montenegro has stated that he will not rely on Chega to govern as he has previously labeled the party as “racist” and “xenophobic.” Yet it remains unclear if his Democratic Alliance can govern without working with Chega. Montenegro will instead attempt to form a coalition with the fourth-place Liberal Initiative.

Portugal has become labeled as the poorest nation in Western Europe and as such, analysts attribute Chega’s rise to voters’ fatigue with the low wages, high taxes, a housing crisis and corruption that has long plagued the nation. According to a 2023 survey, 93% of Portuguese citizens believe that corruption is widespread. This previous election was notably triggered due to the resignation of Prime Minister Antonio Costa after a corruption investigation was initiated.


This development contrasted drastically with Portuguese political history since Portugal has long been known as one of the most left-wing countries in the European Union. Since the 1974 military coup, the Left has dominated Portugal’s political scene. The Portuguese Constitution even calls for the establishment of a “path towards a socialist society.” As the Right gains steam, Portugal could be a bellwether for the rest of Europe which has already seen a surge in far-right populism.


The French far-right has significantly increased in support election after election and recently garnered 41.5% of the vote in France’s most recent election. Italy has had its most far-right government since 1946. In Germany, the far-right party “Alternative for Germany” is polling at 22%. This is more support than each of the three centrist and center-left parties in the German ruling coalition. 


The emergence of far-right support in Europe could have significant implications as the future of the EU and NATO could become uncertain. In particular, NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will become more unclear as Putin is known to cultivate links with the European far right. All things considered, a surge in far-right populism could likely result in a more insular Europe. 


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