July 12, 2019 / 7:06 PM / 6 days ago

Portugal's Socialists extend lead before October election: poll

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s ruling Socialists extended their lead over the opposition in an opinion poll released on Friday three months before a parliamentary vote, putting them closer to winning a majority after years of solid, if slowing, economic growth.

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa arrives to take part in a European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw/File Photo

The survey by ICS/ISCTE pollsters for Expresso weekly and SIC television channel put the center-left Socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa at 38% of voting intentions, up 1 percentage point from the previous poll in March.

The main opposition Social Democrats were far behind on 23%, having dropped two points, and their traditional allies from the conservative CDS-PP were on 5%, a sharp 3 points lower.

The two parties had governed together before the last election in 2015, presiding over a period of tough austerity they had to impose under an international bailout.

The poll also showed the Socialists, whose combination of fiscal discipline with economic growth has won praise from Brussels and ratings agencies, may have more options this time if they fail to clinch a majority.

Although growth has slowed somewhat since 2017, which marked the strongest expansion since the turn of the century, it is still expected to outpace the euro zone’s average, and the government expects to post the country’s first budget surplus in at least 45 years in 2020.

In the current legislature, the Socialists had to rely on the backing in parliament from two far-left parties, the Left Bloc and the Communists, the former being more prone to compromise than the latter.

With the Bloc rising to 11% of voting inventions, their support alone, be it via a deal in parliament or a coalition, would be enough for the Socialists to have a majority in the house, even considering the poll’s margin of error of 3.5%.

The threshold for a parliament majority can vary but usually 42% of the vote would be sufficient.

The Communist party was not far behind on 8%, meaning it could also become the Socialists’ single, if less likely, ally.

Another potential kingmaker is the People-Animals-Nature party (PAN), which has recently won a seat in the European Parliament after garnering 5% of the vote in May on a wave of concern about climate change and the environment.

The opinion poll put PAN at 4% of voting intentions for the Oct. 6 election.

The pollsters surveyed 801 people between 15 and 27 of June.

Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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