Bailout country Portugal is about to vote for austerity

Jessica Morris
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Portugal will go to the polls on Sunday (Source: Getty)

Portugal could make history this weekend by becoming the first bailout country to re-elect a government that imposed unpopular austerity measures in the wake of the Eurozone crisis.

The centre-right ruling coalition, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, is ahead of the main opposition Socialists in four opinion polls.

They may not be on course to win an absolute parliamentary majority, but it still means the Portuguese electorate shows a preference for political parties that introduced introduced pay cuts, the sharpest tax hikes in living memory a mass exodus of young skilled workers.

The main Socialist Opposition has fought the election on a platform of easing austerity and boost voter's disposable incomes.

Read more: Could the Eurozone soon see a wave of anti-austerity rebellion?

So how come Portugal has taken a different path to that of Greece, where the leftist Syriza coalition government recently re-entered office?

One reason could be fear of instability and the economic recovery.

"There is a part of the electorate that may vote for the government as it fears that the Socialists will not obtain a majority (in parliament) and that would lead to political instability. That's why the coalition is sending out a message of security, continuity and stability," Antonio Costa Pinto, political analyst at the University of Lisbon, previously said.

Portugal exited its bailout programme in 2014, and the European Commission expects its economy to grow by 1.6 per cent this year. But Portugal isn't out of the woods yet, its debt levels are still some of the highest in Europe, and unemployment remains stubbornly high at 12.4 per cent.

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