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Ruling left favoured as Portugal votes in local polls

Portugal voted in local elections on Sunday, with the Socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa expected to win, though with a smaller margin than four years ago.

The election comes after the Costa government on Thursday announced that it would lift most restrictions put in place to fight Covid from October 1, in a country with one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

Some 9.3 million people are registered to vote in all 308 of the country’s towns and cities.

Projections are expected from 10 pm (2000 GMT), after polls close in Portugal’s Azores archipelago, while official results will be published later in the night.

The Socialist Party, afer being in power for two years, scored a record victory in the 2017 vote, winning 38 percent against 28 percent for the main opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), a centre-right formation.

As a result the Socialists won 161 mayoralties to 98 for the PSD.

PSD leader Rui Rio has said he will resign if the party suffers a defeat as heavy as that of 2017.

Local analysts however say around 50 towns or cities might change hands, while the Socialists themselves expect to lose up to 15 mayoralties.

Polls suggest the Socialists will easily retain the capital city Lisbon, whose Mayor Fernando Medina is streets ahead of his centre-right challenger Carlos Moedas, a former European commissioner.

Rui Moreira, the independent incumbent in Porto, a major coastal city in the north, is tipped to win re-election handily.