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Portugal legislative polls set for January 30: President

Portugal’s conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Thursday announced the dissolution of parliament and called early elections for January 30 following the rejection of the socialist government’s 2022 budget.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who split from the far-left parties that had supported him since 2015, has already promised to campaign for a “reinforced, stable and lasting majority”, while the right-wing opposition is plagued by internal divisions.

The rejection of the budget “has totally reduced the government’s support base”, while 2022 will be “a decisive year for a durable exit from the pandemic and the social crisis which has hit us”, the head of state said in a televised address.

The way to early elections was paved by parliament’s rejection of the budget on October 27 — the first time this has happened since Portugal’s transition to democracy in 1974.

Costa lost the support of some smaller left-wing parties which voted with the opposition against his budget.

Left wing parties had argued that more needed to be done for public services.

The vote did not automatically trigger an early election — the next one had been scheduled for late 2023.

But the president has the right to dissolve parliament in his role as crisis moderator.

The deadlock following the budget rejection had left the prime minister and president unable to plan how to spend EU funds for the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Costa, who has led minority governments since 2015 but faced increasing opposition from his allies, earlier vowed before the vote not to resign.

“The last thing the country needs in these circumstances is a political crisis,” he said.

He came to power six years ago in an unprecedented union of the left, vowing to end austerity policies pursued by the right in exchange for a 2011 international bailout.

But his broad alliance has struggled since 2019.

It will be the third time in the space of a year that the country’s nine million voters will be called to the polls, following municipal elections in September and a presidential ballot in January.