Socialist Sampaio Elected as New Portugal President

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Socialist Jorge Sampaio was decisively elected Sunday to succeed Mario Soares as Portugal’s president, confirming the country’s swing to the left.

Final results showed the mild-mannered former Lisbon mayor winning 53.8% of the vote, compared with 46.2% for his conservative rival, former Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva. Turnout was 66.4% of the nearly 9 million eligible voters.

Cavaco Silva admitted defeat without waiting for the count to be completed.

“My first words are to congratulate Jorge Sampaio for his election,” he told a news conference. “I pass on my best wishes to you [Sampaio] in the exercise of your duties on behalf of the Portuguese people.”


The result was a fresh triumph for the center-left Socialist Party just three months after parliamentary elections thrust the party back into government for the first time in a decade.

The election also marked the first time that the Portuguese have chosen a president from the same party as that of their prime minister since democracy was established in the country after a 1974 revolution, which ended decades of right-wing dictatorship.

For Cavaco Silva, who as prime minister was the master of Portugal’s destiny for a decade until the parliamentary elections in October, the election result was a bitter blow.

He had pinned his hopes on his record in government and a call to the Portuguese not to concentrate too much power in the hands of one party.

Although the Portuguese presidency is largely ceremonial, the president can use a veto to delay government legislation. His power to dissolve the parliament also makes him a pivotal figure during any political crisis.

In the end, the country opted for the more paternalistic figure of the 56-year-old Sampaio, an intellectual who said he would remain above the fray of party politics.


Taking a lead from the departing Soares, who carefully nurtured his image as “father of the nation,” Sampaio promised to be a president for “all the Portuguese.”

Soares will hand over power to his fellow Socialist on March 9.