PORTUGAL: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN STARTED ON JANUARY, 1ST

There are five candidates for the Portuguese Presidential Election on 14th January: Jorge Sampaio (Socialist Party) trying for a second 5-year term, Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral (Social Democratic Party), Antonio Abreu (Portuguese Communist Party), Fernando Rosas (Left Block) and Antonio Garcia Pereira (Portuguese Communist Workers’ Party). President Jorge Sampaio (Socialist Party), trying for his second term in office, is the clear favourite to be re-elected. A lawyer, General-Secretary of the Socialist Party between 1989 and 1991, defeated in the national parliamentary elections in that year by Social Democrat Cavaco Silva, he then became Mayor of Lisbon and after an excellent performance, was elected President for the first time in 1995, against Social Democrat candidate Cavaco Silva. Jorge Sampaio wants a new nationalism in Portugal, a renewed interest in political issues since after 25th April 1974, the date of the Portuguese Revolution, the rate of abstention has become alarmingly high. The only situation which would stop President Sampaio from being re-elected is precisely abstention from his natural supporters and a renewed vigour from the electorate of his main opposition opponent, Ferereira do Amaral. Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral is a political animal from the Social Democratic Party, ex-minister of public works under ex-Prime Minister Cavaco Silva. Ferreira do Amaral counts on the support of his own party (Social Democrats) and also the right-wing Popular party, which has not managed to produce its own candidate for these elections. A mechanical engineer, 55-year-old Ferreira do Amaral has managed to unite his party behind him and states that : “Only if I have 49.999 per cent of the votes will I ask for a hand recount of the votes” (referring to a famous election from the previous year). His sense of humour is unlikely to help him win these elections, however. Antonio Abreu, Portuguese Communist Party candidate, has a long curriculum in Lisbon municipal council. 53 years old, a chemical engineer by profession, he has been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party since 1976 and is now a member of the Political Committee. He has been responsible for Public Buildings and Reconstruction of Historic Quarters in Lisbon Municipal Council since 1994, having worked closely with Jorge Sampaio when he was Mayor of Lisbon, and with whom he has a close friendship. He states that the main aim of his candidacy for the Presidential elections is to alert the Portuguese electorate against social problems to which the next President will have to be more attentive. It is thought that he will instruct his supporters to vote for President Sampaio if it seems possible that Ferreira do Amaral could win through voter abstention. Fernando Rosas is an ex-member of the Portuguese Communist Party, a party which he left in 1968 after the situation in Prague, Checoslovakia. He then joined the Communist Workers’ Party but left in 1979 to dedicate himself to academic life : he is a university professor of Economic and Social History. Returning to active political life in the Left Block, which won two seats in parliament in the last general election, he intends to fight against “the neo-rotation of the central block parties” (Socialists and Social Democrats) and to fight against unemployment and in favour of workers’ rights. He intends to launch a campaign against corruption, which will be implacable and from which nobody will be immune. The candidate Antonio Garcia Pereira, of the Portuguese Communist Workers’ Party has belonged to the Central Committee of his party since 1974. He is one of Portugal’s leading specialists in labour Law and is a well-respected lawyer, championing the causes of the disfavoured against the establishment and multi-nationals. He intends “to give a voice to those who do not have one” in these presidential elections.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon

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