Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a former premier and economist, won election to a second term as the country struggles to avoid following Greece and Ireland in requesting a bailout, three exit polls indicated.
Cavaco Silva, backed by the opposition Social Democratic party, grabbed more than the 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright and avoid a runoff, according to the polls. Manuel Alegre, a candidate supported by the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Socrates, took second, the polls showed.
Cavaco Silva, 71, won between 52 percent and 58 percent of the vote, according to a poll by the Catholic University for the RTP television channel in Lisbon. He got between 51.4 percent and 55.4 percent in an Intercampus poll for TVI television, and between 51.6 percent and 56 percent in a poll by Eurosondagem for the SIC television channel.
Alegre won between 18 percent and 21 percent of the vote, RTP said. He garnered between 17.1 percent and 20.9 percent, according to the SIC poll, and between 17.2 percent and 21.2 percent in the TVI poll.
The election comes as Socrates carries out the deepest budget cuts in three decades to convince investors the nation can narrow its budget gap further and tame debt. Cavaco Silva, also a former finance minister, has backed those efforts that so far have failed to rein in borrowing costs and ease concern the country may become the third country in the euro region to request a European Union-led bailout.
“We are living in exceptional times that are the result of complex financial problems,” Miguel Morgado, a professor at Catholic University’s Political Studies Institute in Lisbon, said before the vote. “It’s natural to seek a head of state that feels comfortable with these issues.”
The yield on Portugal’s 10-year bond was at 6.88 percent as of Jan. 21, 371 basis points more than comparable German debt and more than three times the level of a year ago.
While largely ceremonial, the post of president can influence the political debate by speaking out on government policies and has the power to dissolve parliament in certain cases, which Cavaco Silva’s predecessor did in 2004.