Portugal stability to be tested

Portugal votes today in an election that will determine whether political stability is an elusive mirage here, reports Monitor contributor Richard Timsar. How many deputies each of the four main political parties elects to the 250 -seat Parliament will decide who forms the next government. But the popular verdict is not just a judgment on the Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, and Christian Democrats. It is also a test for the democratic regime set up after the bloodless 1974 revolution.

During the last nine years, Portugal has lived through 14 governments and a total of 10 elections, counting municipal, general, and presidential polls. It has tried almost every imaginable form of government. None of them has succeeded in improving the lot of the people, solving Portugal's enormous economic problems, or ending the constant political bickering. Since last December, Portugal has had no real government. Squabbling brought down the previous right-wing coalition.

The opposition Socialist Party of former Premier Mario Soares is counting on voter disillusionment to win a landslide victory. But he faces a formidable task. If his party doesn't win enough votes to govern alone, it will have to form an alliance with the Social Democrats, prompting questions once again on whether rival parties will sink their differences and produce the needed stability or further confuse the political situation.

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