Portugal's presidential election could go to a runoff, exit polls indicated, with a veteran center-right politician getting double the votes of his nearest rival Sunday but perhaps narrowly failing to capture the mostly ceremonial post.
A poll by public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa indicated that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won from 49 to 54 percent of the vote, easily defeating nine rivals but possibly falling short of capturing the more than 50 percent needed to be elected immediately.
Polls on television channels TVIndependente and S.I.C. gave Rebelo de Sousa 51-to-56 percent and 50-to-55 percent of the vote respectively.
A runoff between the two front-runners would be held Feb. 14. If needed, Rebelo de Sousa would likely take on Antonio Sampaio da Novoa, a former university dean close to the center-left government who was expected to get from 22 to 25 percent of the vote, according to the public broadcaster.
A Socialist minority government runs Portugal with backing of the Communist Party and the radical Left Bloc. It is scrapping unpopular economic austerity measures introduced after the financial crisis.
Rebelo de Sousa's expected win suggested voters were looking for a counterweight to the center-left government. Turnout was low Sunday at 52 percent after a dull two-week campaign.
The government is trying to pull off a balancing act by ending austerity measures while sticking to the financial prudence adopted after Portugal's 78 billion-euro ($84 billion) bailout in 2011.
Rebelo de Sousa is a moderate who says he won't rock the boat.
"The president has to be a factor of stability, not instability," he said during the campaign.
The 67-year-old law professor has had a long career in the public eye, working as a newspaper editor, a media pundit, a junior member of governments since the 1970s, and a former member of the European Parliament.
The winner will move into the head of state's riverside pink palace in Lisbon on March 9, replacing Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms.
The Associated Press