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Portugal's ruling government claims elections victory

The center-right ruling coalition "Portugal Forward" has claimed victory in the Portuguese general election. Exit polls indicate the government may be shy of an outright majority in parliament.

According to exit polls conducted by public broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa, the center-right coalition government "Portugal Forward" gained between 38 percent and 43 percent of the votes in Sunday's general election.

The coalition government was congratulated by Manfred Weber, leader of the conservative European People's Party, the largest group in European parliament.

Another poll conducted by Catolica University for RTP television showed that the coalition might win a maximum of 118 seats in Portugal's 230-seat parliament.

A spokesperson for Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho's "Portugal Forward" coalition claimed victory in the national election, reported Reuters news agency.

"In the name of the coalition we are here to affirm that all the projections that are known point to a clear fact that the coalition 'Portugal Forward' had a great victory on this election night," said Marco Antonio Costa, deputy president of the Social Democrats, the coalition's ruling party.

"We will maintain our commitment to guarantee a recovery…and will maintain an attitude of dialogue," Costa told a crowd of supporters.

'Sacrifices'

Despite unpopular austerity measures,

polls appear to show the center-right ruling government winning

, with the opposition Socialist Party coming in second with between 30 to 35 percent of the vote - quite an accomplishment, according to political analyst Vincenzo Scarpetta.

In 2011, Portugal requested a 78-billion-euro ($88 billion) bailout at the height of the EU financial crisis,

exiting the program in 2014 following austerity measures

.

However, polls indicate that Passos Coelho made inroads with Portuguese citizens, despite the four years of tax increases and cutbacks in pensions and public services to reduce the countries debt.

"We have had very tough times in the past four years, with a lot of sacrifices. I am confident on the work I have done," Passos Coelho told reporters before casting his vote on Sunday.

"Portugal Forward" needs to gain 44 percent of the vote in order to win a clear majority in parliament.

In 2011, the center-right coalition parties won 50.3 percent of the vote.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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