Thousands vote early in locked-down Portugal poll

By: AFP      Published: 02:09 AM, 18 Jan, 2021
Thousands vote early in locked-down Portugal poll
–File photo

Record numbers of people took part in early voting on Sunday for next weekend's Portuguese presidential election, days after the start of a second coronavirus lockdown.

Almost 250,000 people have registered to vote in advance, nearly five times the number during the last election, officials said.

Seven candidates are in the running in next Sunday's poll, with conservative incumbent Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa widely tipped to win. 

The president, who has little political power, is elected by universal suffrage for a maximum of two five-year terms. 

Queues formed in front of Lisbon's university buildings, where masked voters tried to keep a distance of more than a metre. 

"I am a student in Lisbon and because of the lockdown it was not easy to get to my home city in the north to vote," explained Andreia Goncalves, 22, wrapped in her scarf.

A little further on, Maria Amelio Gracio, a septuagenarian who moves around with difficulty, waited her turn. 

Although her hometown is far from the capital, she preferred to vote in Lisbon where "to avoid travelling in the current context". 

Faced with an upsurge in Covid-19 infections and increasing pressure on hospitals, the Portuguese government imposed a new lockdown on Friday.