Anonymous after his mask, socially distanced and each voter with his pen to avoid the spread of viruses, the Portuguese went to the polls this Sunday with the country collapsed by Covid-19 to decide the position of president. Clara, a cleaner dressed in a visor, mask, and vest, informed voters that she is part of the team at the polling station of one of the schools in the center of Lisbon. His mission was to enter the lonely voting booth every time a voter came out to clean it with disinfectant. Without a single exception, he warned.

To those who can and want to vote, overcome their fears, declared the current head of state, re-elected by 61.3% of support with 98.8% of the vote, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, after having himself voted in its bastion of Celorico de Basto. The vote is going well throughout the country, with distancing, respect for health standards, and patience on the part of the Portuguese People can vote without any problem, he insisted. The Portuguese have given him their support far above their rivals.

The current president of Portugal, of the center-right Social Democratic Party, sweeps the first round without having to go to the second. I am here among the first to avoid groups and queues, Cristina Queda, 58, told the local news agency, who arrived at her polling station in Lisbon as soon as it opened at 8 in the morning. As the election date did not change in the end, I decided to arrive early to avoid the queues.

Just under two-thirds of the Portuguese thought, the election should have been postponed due to the pandemic, according to a survey conducted last week by the ISC / ISCTE research institute. Voters who arrived later had to wait around half an hour, at least in Lisbon, in queues that went around the block, as the rules dictated that voters had to stand two meters apart with only one person allowed inside. the voting room at the same time.
Pollsters, who predicted a record abstention of 60-70%, partly because hundreds of thousands of voters were in quarantine, were wrong, turnout was 35.4% at 4:00 p.m., down 37.7% five years ago. When casting his vote in a Lisbon school, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that all measures were taken to avoid contagion. All the provisions are in place, Costa said.

We are in a very serious moment of the pandemic, everything possible was done so that people could exercise their democratic right to vote. The country of 10 million people is seeing a sharp rise in positives after Christmas, with the world’s highest seven-day moving average of new cases and deaths per capita, according to the University of Oxford data tracker.

The number of deaths from Covid-19 broke records for the seventh consecutive day this Sunday, with 275 and hospitalizations also at their highest point. Ambulances lined up, like voters, in Lisbon hospitals at full capacity. I don’t agree that the date has not changed, said Jose Antonio Queda, 72, who also voted early with his wife. If we are in lockdown, we should avoid the virus as much as possible. Although it is important to come to vote while you are locked up, it makes no sense to leave home and regroup with thousands of people,” said Luis Araujo, the AFP agency.

At stake was also knowing what final results the far-right candidate AndrĂ© Ventura will obtain. Shortly after founding his anti-establishment party Chega which can be translated as enough is enough, this 38-year-old lawyer became his only deputy after the legislative elections at the end of 2019. These elections were intended to confirm the progression of populism right-wing in a country that until now had been an international exception. Chega’s goal was to get second place ahead of former Socialist MEP Ana Gomes. With the scrutiny still running, the distance between the two is less than two points, although with Ventura ahead (12% to 10.5% of Gomes).

Without the support of the socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who has so far lived with Rebelo de Sousa without difficulty, Ana Gomes, a 66-year-old former diplomat who has become a prominent anti-corruption activist, campaigned on the promise of blocking the extreme right.