Portugal Socialists ahead, but margin thin: polls
Portugal's ruling Socialists were slightly ahead in two opinion polls published Saturday two weeks before a parliamentary election, but fell short of the absolute majority they have enjoyed the past four years, Reuters reported.
In both polls, the margin of error is larger than the difference between the Socialists and the center-right PSD party. It means the PSD could still garner more votes in the September 27 ballot, also short of a working majority.
In a late-night television debate with Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates, PSD leader Manuela Ferreira Leite said that "a political understanding with Socrates is out of the question."
She said she would not mind forming a minority government if her party won the ballot.
"I am not totally convinced that an absolute majority is needed. There have been minority governments in the past that governed through the end of their term," she said.
Some analysts do not rule out a central bloc with the participation of the two main parties, and say President Anibal Cavaco Silva may try to broker such a coalition if no party emerges with a clear mandate.
Socrates avoided commenting on any possible cooperation with the PSD, saying only: "I am not a candidate against anyone."
Analysts said disagreements over economic and social issues and mutual accusations made in the debate were nothing new and were unlikely to tip the balance either way.
"I don't think Socrates convinced any left-wing undecided's to vote for him, which is what he had to do to extend the lead. Otherwise, the debate will hardly have any impact on the voting pattern," politologist Antonio Costa Pinto told SIC television.
The opinion polls, by Eurosondagem and Marktest pollsters, showed conflicting trends when compared to the previous surveys in July, the former showing the Socialists gaining 1.4 percentage points to 33.6 percent. Marktest showed the voting intentions for the Socialists dropping slightly to 35.3 percent.
The PSD advanced to 32.5 percent support according to Eurosondagem, while it lost 1.8 percentage points to 32.4 percent compared to the previous Marktest poll.
Another poll Friday showed the Socialists with 37 percent support, two percentage points ahead of the PSD.
With no party standing to win an absolute majority, likely scenarios are that either the Socialists or the PSD will have to govern in a coalition with smaller parties.
Portuguese opinion polls failed to predict the 2005 majority won by the Socialists. The PSD won the European elections in June, with 31.7 percent against 26.6 percent for the Socialists, confounding most expectations.