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Portugal’s outgoing PM sweeps party leadership vote

Published on 27/03/2011

Portugal's Socialist Party overwhelmingly re-elected outgoing Prime Minister Jose Socrates as its leader, it announced Sunday, after he quit last week when parliament rejected his austerity plan.

Socrates took 93.3 percent of party member votes, putting him firmly at the helm ahead of elections likely to be called within weeks after he resigned Wednesday.

All five opposition parties voted Wednesday against his minority government’s fourth programme in a year of spending cuts and tax hikes aimed at averting an EU-IMF bailout to help Lisbon meet debt repayment obligations.

The number of votes given to Socrates by about 32,000 party members in the election on Friday and Saturday was 10 points higher than at his win at the previous leadership poll in 2009, the party said in a statement.

The result is to be ratified at the party’s April 8-10 congress.

Among his three challengers, the best result was for Jacinto Serrao from Madeira who won 3.33 percent of the vote.

Socrates has been prime minister since 2005. He resigned when the austerity plan was rejected, saying he could not govern without support.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva has not formally accepted his resignation.

The president started consultations with parties in parliament on Friday ahead of an anticipated dissolution of parliament and calling of new elections.

He is due this week to meet the State Council, a consultative body made up of senior state personalities.

All parties have called for early elections, with the right pushing for a vote as early as possible, which would be May 29, while the left, including the Socialist Party, prefers June 5.

The austerity plan promoted by Socrates, and supported by the eurozone, is aimed at helping Lisbon bring down its public deficit from a record 9.3 percent of GDP in 2009 to 4.6 percent this year.

Socrates has insisted Portugal does not need a financial rescue package but analysts say it is only a matter of time before it will need help along the lines of packages granted to Greece and Ireland.