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Portugal presidential election likely to go into runoff

Portugal's presidential election could go to a runoff vote, according to an exit poll. Veteran center-right politician Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa looks set to narrowly miss the 50 percent needed for immediate election.

The poll by public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa suggested that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (pictured above) won 49 to 54 percent of Sunday's vote.

If the exit poll proves to be correct, a second vote between the two front-runners would be held on February 14.

Rebelo de Sousa would likely face Antonio Sampaio da Novoa, a former university dean who is close to Portugal's center-left government. He was expected to win 22 to 25 percent of the vote.

The winner will move into the head of state's riverside palace in Lisbon on March 9, replacing Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has served the maximum of two five-year terms.

Portugal's presidency has largely ceremonial duties, but has make-or-break power over the nation's socialist minority government and the right to dissolve parliament in the event of a crisis.

Given the president's potential impact on the country's economic strategy, Portugal's ballot is being scrutinized in Europe. Brussels is watching closely to see whether Lisbon will abide by the policies of economic stringency that unlocked a 78-billion-euro ($85-billion) bailout.

ksb/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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