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Portugal vote ‘most important’ since democracy return: Barroso

Portugal was voting Sunday in its “most important” elections since the April 1975 polls which consolidated the nation’s return to democracy, EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said.

“It is normal for politicians to say that each election is decisive but this time it’s true,” said Barroso, a former Portuguese prime minister, as he arrived to vote at a Lisbon polling station.

“Given the economic and financial situation of the country, I consider these elections to be the most important since those that followed April 25,” he added in a reference to the date in 1974 when a largely bloodless military coup toppled a dictatorship that had ruled Portugal for 42 years.

Portugal’s first parliamentary elections held with universal suffrage took place on April 25, 1975, exactly a year later.

“It is essential that the Portuguese people vote massively and express clearly what they want for the country,” said Barroso, who was prime minister between 2002 and 2004, when he resigned to head the European Commission.

Sunday’s early election will decide who will implement Lisbon’s rigorous 78 billion euro bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Final surveys published Friday gave Barroso’s Social Democrats (PSD) around 36 percent of the vote against 31 percent for Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ Socialists.

The early election was triggered by Socrates’ resignation at the end of March after the parliamentary opposition, led by the PSD, rejected his minority government’s fourth austerity package in just under a year.