1.23.2006

a new president

And, so, a new president has been elected: Cavaco Silva.

Here is a summary from the Globe and Mail:

LISBON -- Portugal's former centre-right prime minister Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has vowed to help revive a stagnant economy, narrowly won a presidential election yesterday in the first round, official results showed.

The Social Democrat-backed candidate captured 50.59 per cent of the vote in an election that featured five left-of-centre candidates, according to an official count of ballots cast in more than 99 per cent of polling stations.

Mr. Cavaco Silva, who oversaw a period of economic growth as prime minister between 1985 and 1995, is the first president elected outside the left since a 1974 military coup toppled a repressive right-wing dictatorship that ruled Portugal for nearly 50 years.

During the campaign he pledged that if elected, he would press Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates to go ahead with promised reforms intended to boost economic competitiveness.

"We have before us a demanding path," he told thousands of flag-waving supporters, some of them in tears, who gathered outside the riverside Lisbon cultural centre which hosted the candidate's victory party.

The presidency is a highly visible but largely ceremonial role. The head of state has no power to legislate but can dissolve parliament, veto laws, call general elections and appoint the prime minister based on vote results.

The president can also influence government policy by identifying priorities or expressing opinions about proposed initiatives.

If no candidate had captured more than 50 per cent of the vote, a runoff election between the top two contenders would have been held on Feb. 12.

Mr. Cavaco Silva's nearest rival was Socialist lawmaker and poet Manuel Alegre, who ran as an independent against the wishes of his party, which backed former Socialist prime minister and two-time president Mario Soares.

Mr. Alegre won 20.72 per cent of the vote while Mr. Soares, who steered Portugal from dictatorship to democracy, ended up in third place with 14.34 per cent.

An admirer of Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Cavaco Silva is credited with introducing free-market reforms as prime minister.

The reforms overlapped with the arrival of billions in aid from the European Union, which Portugal joined in 1986, helping to lift living standards.

He will be sworn in on March 9, taking over from Socialist President Jorge Sampaio, who is stepping down after serving two consecutive five-year terms, the maximum allowed under the constitution.

The Socialists won 45 per cent of votes cast -- and an outright majority in the 230-seat parliament -- in an early general election held last February.

But polls show Mr. Cavaco Silva's focus on the need for further reforms together with his reputation for economic competence had struck a chord with voters from both the left and right who are concerned about rising unemployment

No comments: