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Crisis-hit Portugal reelects Cavaco Silva as president

Portuguese voters backed incumbent center-right Anibal Cavaco Silva in presidential elections on Sunday, but turnout was at a record low.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva

Voters value President Cavaco Silva's economic expertise

Portuguese voters have reelected incumbent President Anibal Cavaco Silva to a second term on Sunday. With nearly all votes counted, Cavaco Silva achieved 55 percent of the vote on a record low turnout of under 47 percent.

"I will be a reference of confidence, stability and solidarity, without abdicating the powers that the consitution gives me," Cavaco Silva said after the vote.

Cavaco Silva's nearest rival, Manuel Alegre of the ruling Socialists, had garnered only around 19 percent of vote.

Socialist party candidate Manuel Alegre

Socialist party candidate Manuel Alegre trailed his rival

Although Cavaco Silva's party, the Social Democrats, are in opposition, his reelection should provide a much-needed boost for the minority Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who said that "the Portuguese voted for no change, for continuity and for political stability."

Cavaco Silva is known as 'the professor' at home, because of his matter-of-fact and slightly distant nature. But the 71-year-old is a well-respected economist and served both as prime minister and finance minister. His economic expertise is appreciated by many voters, as Portugal feels the effects of the eurozone debt crisis.

The presidential role is mostly ceremonial, but in recent months Cavaco Silva has provided crucial support to government efforts to push through austerity measures designed to avoid a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Because the Socialists are a minority in parliament, efforts to obtain support for spending cuts are closely watched by investors.

Drastic cuts

Socrates won backing from the Social Democrats for this year's budget, which will cut civil servants' wages by 5 percent and introduce across-the-board tax hikes, partly through Cavaco Silva nudging his own party to provide support.

The government has promised the European Union that it will cut the budget deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product this year from 7.3 percent last year. Many economists expect these measures to tip the country back into recession after 1.3 percent growth in 2010.

Euro squeeze

The government has had to implement spending cuts and tax hikes

Crippling crisis

Many Portuguese have been hit hard by Socrates' austerity measures, which have eroded their spending power and are seen as penalizing the poor and middle classes rather than the rich.

While many economists expect Portugal to come under growing pressure to seek a bailout, the country has managed successful bond auctions in the past two weeks, with investors demanding lower rates to buy its debts.

Author: Joanna Impey, Darren Mara, Nicole Goebel (dpa, Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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