Sept 28 (Reuters) - Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates won a second term in a general election on Sunday but his centre-left party lost its absolute majority in parliament.
That leaves him having to opt to rule alone in a minority government, form a coalition, or negotiate in parliament.
Below is a summary of the next steps required to form the new government:
*Until Oct. 7: announcement of results of voting by Portuguese citizens living overseas, who elect four members of Parliament.
*Oct. 7 to Oct. 17: President Anibal Cavaco Silva meets informally with the leaders of political parties to discuss the election results.
*Until Oct. 17: formal announcement of final results in Diario da Republica bulletin. Only after this date can Cavaco Silva invite the leader of the winning party to become prime minister and form government.
*Oct. 19 or 20: New parliament meets for the first time.
*Until Oct. 27: The new prime minister appoints ministers and presents government program for parliament to debate. The debate can last up to three days, and the program proposal is approved or can be rejected by an absolute majority of members of parliament.
*President Cavaco Silva cannot dissolve parliament and call snap elections in the first six months after the election (March 2010) nor in the final six months of his own mandate, which ends in March 2011.
*The timetable to form government will delay the presentation and parliamentary approval of the 2010 budget by several months. Usually approved by mid-December, the budget is not likely to be approved before April 2010.
*In the interim, ministries can each month spend the monthly amount allocated to them in the 2009 budget, with items suchs as civil service pay rises to be retro-actively allocated after the 2010 budget is approved.
Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; editing by Angus MacSwan