Portugal’s ruling Socialists forge ahead in poll

Portugal's PM Costa speaks during a biweekly debate at the parliament in Lisbon

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s ruling Socialists forged ahead in an opinion poll released on Friday, a year after their minority government took power and started to reverse the austerity policies of their predecessors.

The survey by Catolica University, published by state broadcaster RTP, showed the center-left Socialists with 43 percent support, close to the level that would win them a majority of parliament seats if an election was held today.

In a similar survey by Catolica in December 2015, the Socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa had 34 percent. They took over after a center-right coalition, which won the most votes in an October 2015 election, failed to gain parliament’s approval to form a second-term government.

The Socialists’ main rivals, the Social Democrats, fell to 30 percent and the rightist CDS-PP to 6 percent.

The left-wing allies of the government, the Left Bloc and the Communists, fell to 8 percent from 11 Percent and to 6 percent from 7 percent respectively.

Some analysts have suggested the Socialists might push for a new election if they continue to rise in polls. But party president Carlos Cesar said on Friday the government considered the status quo as a lasting arrangement.

“Today as we celebrate our one year in government, our understanding is that of growing confidence in the arrangement that was our allied parliamentary majority,” he said.

“The Portuguese should know that this is a stable solution, with good results for the country.”

The government has reversed some wage cuts and tax hikes imposed by its predecessors under the terms of an international bailout, but has managed to keep cutting the budget deficit in line with its EU commitments.

The Catolica poll, in which 977 people were surveyed from Nov. 19 to 22, showed that 21 percent of voters were undecided. The margin of error in the poll was 3.1 percent.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip; editing by Axel Bugge and Andrew Roche)