Portugal Follows Germany to Right

Although South America is clearly trending to the left after recent elections in Chile and Bolivia, Western Europe may be moving in the opposite direction. A few months after Germany turned out the Social Democratic government in favor of a coalition led by conservative Angela Merkel, Portugal has just elected its first right-of-center president since it moved from dictatorship to democracy in 1974.

In dramatic results, former Prime Minister (1985-95) and staunch conservative Anibal Cavaco Silva topped a six-candidate race for president of Portugal yesterday, winning 51% of the vote over five opponents who were clearly to his left. Under Cavaco Silva’s decade-long government, Portugal instituted dramatic free market reforms that effectively modernized its economy to where annual economic growth reached 5%. Although the position of president is largely ceremonial and Portugal’s present government is under a socialist prime minister, Cavaco Silva’s charisma and popularity is likely to have a strong influence on future policies.

In 2004, Greece turned out its Socialist government in favor of a right-of-center regime under Prime Minister Karamanlis, nephew and grandson of former prime ministers (and known as the “George W. Bush of Greece”). Last year, Germany went from Social Democrat to “grand alliance” between the SDP and conservatives (Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union) under Merkel.  Great Britain is likely to have an election after present Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves office — which is expected next year — and France will hold a presidential election in 2007.