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The surprising intention to vote…!

The latest polls indicate 49% of voters intend to cast their vote on Sunday's European elections in Portugal. Are the Portuguese getting more involved in the EU? [European Parliament]

The latest polls released yesterday revealed some interesting, though unsurprising numbers.

The socialists continue to lead the voting intentions, regardless of the age groups and education levels, electing either 8 or 9 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The social democrats (EPP-affiliated) come second, but 10% behind. Other parties, such as the Eurosceptic ‘Bloco de Esquerda’ (Left Bloc) or the christian-democrat CDS, either lose or win 1 MEP.

According to the numbers released by the newspaper Público and RTP, two parties are close to elect their first representative to the European Parliament: the environmentalist PAN (People–Animals–Nature party) and the liberal Aliança. This follows trends seen across Europe – even if not as strongly… But with a stable socialist hold of leadership and a rather weak opposition, it was not expected that these elections would push voters beyond the usual parties. In my opinion, the Portuguese tend to stick to what they know, even in hardship.

The big reveal, however, lies in the current Portuguese intention to vote: almost half (49%) of respondents were absolutely certain that they would vote on Sunday.

In the previous European elections, in 2014, the abstention rate in Portugal was 66,2%. In fact, one has to go back 30 years – to 1989 – to find a voting percentage similar to how many Portuguese intend to vote this weekend.

I find this number admirable, even if I have to remain sceptical of its certainty. Despite having voted on all the elections that have occurred since I was 18, I remain the in the minority, and throughout the years, I have heard numerous political analysts find varied justifications for the abstention rates in Portugal. It’s either too warm – and people prefer to go to the beach – or too cold and rainy – and people stay at home. There’s also the possibility of being a game day – and then people are more focused on football than going to the polls.

Benfica won the national championship last weekend, and the final game of the Cup of Portugal is on Saturday – so at least sports are out of the way… But with temperatures rising to 35 degrees Celsius, I do hope actions match intentions on Sunday and people show up to elect their representatives in the EU for the next 5 years.

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