PORTUGAL: PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN CLOSES TOMORROW

The presidential election campaign closes tomorrow, before a period of two days of reflection precedes the election day – Sunday. What is already decided is the winner – current president Jorge Sampaio, lawyer, 61 years old, ready for a second (and final) term of office. Sampaio is a lifelong Socialist party militant, a fact which he is proud of. In second place will certainly be the candidate who represents the centre-right, Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral, ex-Minister of Public Works in the Social Democratic government under ex-Prime Minister Cavaco Silva…always an “ex”. The third place is hotly disputed between three leftist candidates, who have all been vociferous in recent weeks against NATO, against the campaign in the Balkans and against DU weapons. The Portuguese Communist Party candidate surprised all today as the PCP announced that their candidate would not drop out of the race at the last moment to favour the candidate of the Socialists, Jorge Sampaio. This decision has motivated the PCP to new levels of energy as the party gathers behind its candidate with its habitual vigour and professionalism. The other candidates from the political left are Fernando Rosas (Left Block) and Garcia Pereira (Portuguese Communist Workers Party). The results should be known on Sunday night but the only excitement will be to see how many votes the leftist parties managed to get and whether or not the “abstention vote” won the elections!

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon