Portugal’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate, Rui Rio, defeated former prime minister Pedro Santana Lopes, in the members election for leadership of the main opposition party.
The voting took place over the weekend during the congress of Portuguese Social Democratic Party which had two candidates, one for the North of Country and the other from the South.
Both candidates are party veterans with political experience mainly in the regional politics, Rui Rio a long serving Mayor of Porto and Santana Lopes a Mayor of Lisbon and Figueira da Foz, before being Prime Minister.
Besides being geographically separated they are also different in their political viewpoints, Rui Rio being a liberal and a supporter of abortion, euthanasia and legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, while Santana Lopes comes from the more conservative wing of the party assuming a staunch catholic moral stance .
Although he social Democrats hold more seats in the Portuguese parliament, since the last legislative elections, they have no majority to form a government ,which the Socialist Party led by Antonio Costa managed to achieve via partisan accords with the left.
The road ahead for the new PSD leader will not be easy because his party is facing a Socialist government with a confortable popularity rating, which according to public opinion surveys would give them an easy win if elections were held at this precise moment.
According to Rui Rio the new party strategy will be a limited support to the Socialists in the Parliament with the aim of swinging Prime Minister Antonio Costa to a centrist leaning governance.
The move could also provide a more visible participation of the PSD Social Democrats in Portuguese politics.