Hugo Correia / Reuters

Rebelo de Sousa wins Portugal presidential vote

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won 52 percent of vote in Portugal's presidential election, eliminating possibility of runoff

Center-right candidate Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa won Portugal's presidential election on Sunday, an outcome that may help maintain political balance after a swing to the left in October's parliamentary ballot.

In his victory speech, Social Democrat Rebelo de Sousa, 67, said he will work to promote consensus and repair divisions created in the aftermath of the previous election when the left ousted a center-right administration that imposed tough austerity from 2011 to 2014 under an international bailout.

"This election ends a very long election process ... that unnerved the country and divided a society already hurt by years of crisis. It is time to turn the page and detraumatize, start an economic, social and political pacification," said Rebelo de Sousa, who teaches at the Lisbon University's Law Faculty.

"We have to align social justice with economic growth and financial stability, without compromising the financial solidity for which so many Portuguese sacrificed so much for years," he said referring to Portugal's budget consolidation drive of the past few years that helped it out of an acute debt crisis.

With nearly all votes counted, results showed Rebelo de Sousa winning 52 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff.

His closest rival, Socialist Antonio Sampaio da Novoa, conceded defeat after picking up around 23 percent of the vote. Left Bloc candidate Marisa Matias had 10 percent.

Portugal's president is a largely ceremonial figure but the office plays an important role at times of political uncertainty because the position has the power to dissolve parliament and fire the prime minister.

Many political analysts do not expect the Socialist-led government to serve a full four-year term and the new president could play a key role, either as mediator between the parties or using his power to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

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.

The government is trying to pull off a balancing act by ending austerity measures while sticking to the financial prudence adopted after Portugal's $84 billion bailout in 2011.

Rebelo de Sousa is a 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.

He 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.

Barely half of registered Portuguese voters — 52 percent — cast their ballot in Sunday's election, though turnout was up slightly from the previous presidential poll in 2011.

A poll by public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa had indicated that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa winning 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.

Wire services


Related News

Europe, Portugal

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Europe, Portugal

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter