Portugal puts faith in Silva

City A.M. Reporter
PORTUGUESE President Anibal Cavaco Silva won a second term in an election yesterday, television exit polls showed, a result that should ensure short-term political stability as the cash-strapped government fights to avoid an international financial bailout.

The country’s leading television stations put Cavaco Silva’s share of the vote at around 55 per cent compared with about 19 per cent for Manuel Alegre of the ruling Socialists, his closest competitor in a field of six.

Alegre conceded defeat minutes later.

Cavaco Silva, of the centre-right Social Democrats, is expected to bolster Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ drive to cut the budget deficit through tough austerity measures and pull the the country out of a debt crisis.

The President’s post is largely ceremonial but he does have the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and dissolve parliament.

Should Portugal have to follow eurozone weaklings Greece and Ireland and go the EU and International Monetary Fund for a rescue package, Cavaco could be under pressure from his own party, which is in opposition to the Socialists, to do so.

But after casting his vote in a chilly Lisbon, Cavaco Silva, a former economics professor who was prime minister from 1985 to 1995, said he did not want to speculate about that possibility.

“I am a president in favour of stability. I consider that it is very important for Portugal to have political stability to solve its problems,” he said.