There is one week left for the in-person vote in the Europe circle to be completed, after being declared void. The reason? Some ballots were inserted into a ballot box without a copy of the voter’s citizenship card, making it impossible to distinguish between valid and invalid votes. This led the Constitutional Court (TC) to declare the “nullity of the election in the polling stations of the circle of Europe”, which imposes the repetition of the vote. With this, those registered in Europe vote on the 12th and 13th of this month. Anyone who chooses to vote by mail will have to do so before the 23rd.
In addition to delaying the formation of the new government and a new parliament, the repetition gives the parties two opportunities: on the one hand, they can campaign again; on the other hand, those who failed to elect a deputy have one last chance here.
In all, there are 38 effective candidates to vote. Francisca Sampaio, from CDS-PP, is one of the top candidates. Not having elected any deputy in the national constituencies, it is the last hope of the party. However, the candidate says she is “optimistic and confident” in a different result from that obtained during the canceled vote (ninth place, with just over 1% of the vote), but says she has “feet on the ground”. To change the course of the party, the campaign can be decisive. Therefore, the bet is made “especially on social networks and digital platforms”, something that had already happened during the campaign for the January 30 elections. However, the head of the CDS-PP list was not present at the debate between candidates of the parties holding parliamentary seats, which took place on 2 and 3 March.
The Left Bloc (BE) was another of the losers of the election night, having only five deputies left in the Assembly of the Republic. The bloc’s candidate says “the time until the election is very short”, which she says makes it impossible to run a more extensive campaign. As with CDS, “the focus is on social media and the online context.”
Liberal Initiative (LI) candidate Carolina Diniz also picked digital media as her favorites for the campaign. “The idea was to do something in line with January, with debates, videos and interventions on social networks,” he reveals.
“Our campaign is mainly carried out on social networks”, explains Amílcar Martins, of ADN, who adds: “All emigrants read and listen, and this is the best way to reach whoever we want”.
The Alliance has adopted the same strategy. “We had no support. That’s why we don’t have the means to return to the field,” explains candidate Ossanda Liber. Campaigning for the January elections, Ossanda was “in several countries, such as Angola, France, the United Kingdom or Luxembourg”. Something that this time is “impossible”. Therefore, the plan was “to use social media, to have online meetings”. Despite the short time until the rehearsal, there was room for a debate, organized by Rádio Observador. Rogério Castro, from PAN, was not available to participate, nor was Francisca Sampaio.
“Never has a party without a parliamentary seat won a demonstration at the TC”
If the candidates converge in the ways of campaigning, the opinions diverge in the readings on the cancellation of the vote.
For Francisca Sampaio, repeating the election was the right decision. “Mixing votes without knowing their validity was not acceptable,” he says. Therefore, he welcomes “the decision of the TC and, even more, the decision to be able to vote on paper and not only by correspondence”. From the point of view of Volt, whose appeal was the only one to be analyzed and accepted by the TC, it is a “historic act”, which “is part of the democratic genesis” of the party, considers the leader of the list Duarte Costa. “More than that,” he says, “it’s also historic because a party without a seat in parliament has never won a protest.”
Besides Volt, PAN, Chega and Livre also appealed the decision to TC. For Natércia Lopes (Book) the question is seen “with good eyes, so that emigrants can express themselves again. It is a very atypical situation”, she believes. The PAN candidate, Rogério Castro, reveals that the party was “very happy with the appeal of the Volt”, deeming it “positive because it gives the opportunity to give voice to emigrants and to have a fairer vote” than the previous one.
For his part, Paulo Pisco, the candidate of the PS, affirms that “no one wanted the elections to be repeated, including the parties which filed the appeal”. The agreement to accept votes without a citizen’s card was, according to the deputy of the previous legislature, accepted by all. Including the PSD. “The agreement that was reached, and which all the parties agreed on, was to also accept votes without a citizen’s card,” he says.
However, the problems of counting the votes of emigrants are not new. In 2019, about 35,000 emigrant votes were considered invalid. At the time, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) had justified the cancellation by changes in the postal voting procedure, while a copy of the citizen’s card was necessary to validate the votes.
However, never in a democracy had an entire constituency been cancelled. Despite being unprecedented, most candidates agree with the decision to repeat the electoral act.
For the liberal Carolina Diniz, this “proves the incompetence of the traditional parties” which, according to her, “have colluded” on certain issues over time. Amílcar Martins raises another issue: the reform of the electoral system. “It should be possible to vote online. Why is this archaic process still necessary? The law needs to be better thought out.” PSD candidate Maria Ester Garcia agrees. According to him, this situation can be “an evil that we will have to overcome in order to be able, on our own, not only to repair, but also to better rethink the electoral law and adapt it to our times”.
Ossanda Liber believes that “it is completely justified to repeat the vote”, while the PSD had initially sided with the PS. For the Alliance candidate, “it is obvious that there must be an account of responsibility” in relation to the canceled vote.
In the opinion of Joana Carvalho, of the CDU, repeating the vote “is positive”. “It would be a shame not to repeat the act and to respect people’s votes”, he believes, not forgetting that “there is little information on how to vote correctly, and that is why the CDU voted in favor of validating all votes received”, whether or not a copy of the citizen’s card is attached.
In this month’s rehearsal, the procedure will be the same. According to the press release issued by the CNE, “the various declarations which admit the change in the voting method should not be taken into account”. In other words, the universe of voters qualified to vote is the same as in January, and the parties to vote are also the same.
Expectations regarding the vote are diverse. Teresa Soares, of BE, considers it essential that people “mobilize to go and vote”, so that they “fight for their rights”, also ensuring that the “shame” that occurred in January does not will not happen again. For the communist Joana Carvalho, it is “important that emigrants are heard” and, therefore, “voting is something that should not be refrained from”.
In the first vote, abstention in the Europe circle was 79.13%, the lowest figure in recent years. It has always been a struggle that parties have fought for. This poll is no different.
For Rogério Castro (PAN), it is “important that people vote, but that they vote above all for parties other than the PS or the PSD, which have caused this situation”. The same considers the candidate of the Volt. “People can take the opportunity to vote for new parties” and thus fight against abstention. However, Duarte Costa says it is “clear that there may be people who are defrauded and others who, of course, will vote in protest”.
For Francisca Sampaio (CDS), one of the ways of reducing abstention could be to give more value to the European circle. The centrist candidate recalls that in terms of global area, it is the largest constituency, but only elects two deputies. “Valuing emigrants and their problems is important. A circle so wide that it only elects two deputies does not make much sense,” he said. “People may be unhappy, but they must not go to vote,” he appealed.
The Pound candidate is less optimistic. “It’s very difficult to vote for those who are emigrants, and there are people who feel that the effort they make to vote is useless,” he says. This makes “people feel distant. And so abstention can go up”.
Knowing the result, can the meaning of the vote change?
Repeated voting in the circle of Europe means that by the time voters go to vote, the constitution of Parliament will already be practically set. Without the votes of emigrants in Europe, we already know that the PS will have an absolute majority, with at least 118 deputies, and that the PSD has at least 77 deputies. According to the candidates, this factor can influence the vote of emigrants.
“I think most voters are unhappy with this situation,” said Paulo Pisco (PS). “People can end up penalizing the PSD a lot and vote for other parties or the reverse can also happen, the vote being the same,” said the candidate. For the main opponent, Maria Ester Vargas (PSD), who had even been elected during the annulled vote, the hope is that “the Portuguese will know who fought for the law and that they will realize that the annulment was not for them, but to ensure that the law was obeyed.”
For Natércia Lopes (Book), the result of the vote “may change”. But more than that, he says, “it’s important to understand why this may change.” According to him, “emigrants may not feel represented and use the vote to send a kind of message” that they want to convey. Rogério Castro (PAN) goes in the same direction. “I hope they realize that it’s more useful to vote for the PAN than for the PS or the PSD, because that would be giving votes to those who caused this and votes that don’t change anything. ” By voting for his party, “people can bring new blood to parliament”, he says.
For the Volt candidate, “there is an opportunity to give voice to a new political force”, mentioning that he wants to “work to reach the people”, and thus be the first elected deputy of the party. Moreover, “voting ensures that democracy is not destroyed” and, thus, “people should vote for those who have successfully stood up for their rights. Voting for the PS or the PSD does not guarantee anything,” he says.
Finally, Joana Carvalho (CDU) argues that “people should look at each party’s proposals and vote for what they believe in”.