terça-feira, 25 de janeiro de 2011

Congratulations to Portugal

Today's vote affirms Portugal's place in the system of peaceful, liberal democracies. Democracy has many disadvantages, not the least of which is that it never seems like the ideal candidates step forward for election -- but constitutional republics are the best form of government yet devised, and it only takes a look around the world to be reminded that not everyone is so fortunate as to live in a place where governmental decisions are made peacefully and with respect for the choices of the people as a whole.

As I see it, voter turnout in Portugal was about half of its eligible voters. That's about right for democratic governments in which voting is not mandatory. (Australia, for instance, has mandatory voting, enforced by a special tax on those who do not vote.) That's about the same percentage of voters who turned out to vote for President here in the USA in 2008. Unlike the USA, the incumbent in Portugal won re-election, which is a little surprising given the economic troubles faced by the government.

But I recall also that the Presidency in Portugal is more of a ceremonial position; the President's power to alter policies is much more subtle than that of the U.S. President or even, say, the President of France or Russia. The voters know this, of course, and look for someone who will be a good figurehead, someone they can be proud of and like to see as the personification of their country to the rest of the world. President Silva does seem to fill that role very well.

And the fact that the current head of government seemed to favor the challenger to Silva, yet Silva was re-elected, indicates that the voters were delivering something of a rebuke to Prime Minister Socrates.

In that sense, it might have been nice to see Fernando Nobre do better. It's tough to see anyone as a viable candidate without partisan support in a modern democracy, but Dr. Nobre's association with a remarkable medical charity would have really been a powerful statement by the Portuguese people about how they want to be seen by the rest of the world. But Silva's re-election was by a margin over 50%, meaning he won outright and even if there had only been one other candidate -- if that had been Dr. Nobre or Mr. Alegre, the Socialist alternative and (as I understand it) the favored choice of the Prime Minister,

Still, there were also at least five significant candidates, one of whom was a breakaway from another major political coalition. Given the inherent advantages of incumbency and the opportunities that such political fragmentation creates, it ought not to be surprising that even in difficult times, a multi-party system creates its own kind of stability.

So Portugal continues to have a divided government and the voters there made a clear decision. This is nothing unusual or awful in the world of industrialized nations with representative Constitutional democracies -- particularly those facing hard financial choices in an uncertain world.

10 comentários:

Francisco Castelo Branco disse...

i´m very impressed about your analysis.

your post is incredible.

Fernando Nobre is that guy who doesn´t have party. It seems like some candidates in USA that have a lot of money and make a great campaign.

In the future, other independents will be run for President. And with more money, it is possible to achieve more votes. So, probably in next 10/15 years we will have in Palacio de Belem one independent.
I´m sure about that

Rafeiro Perfumado disse...

Mas preocupante é a abstenção, cada vez maior. Se as pessoas prescindem do seu direito, um dia correm o risco de alguém achar que as eleições são desnecessárias.

Francisco Castelo Branco disse...

Ou então de um multimillionário aparecer e ganhar...

expressodalinha disse...

A abstenção tem mais a ver com a má qualidade dos políticos do que o desinteresse.

daga disse...

I see that Francisco is an optimistic person, but unfortunately I don't believe in that utopian vision of an independent candidat winning the presedential elections in the near future. Portuguese people like to belong to "clubs", to parties... so I must say that I'm impressed by the votes Dr. Fernando Nobre achieved!

Francisco Castelo Branco disse...

Dear Daga

when a person very important in the portuguese society have a lot of money and join a massive support, i think he will win with a great majority.

is that the reality in USA

Anónimo disse...


aparecer um milionário e ganhar não me aflige!...milionários na politica é bom...mau mau é virem para a politica sem um chavo,apenas apendices dos partidos e enriquecerem com a politica... como dizia Olof Palme a uma delegação do MFA que o visitava e o indagava em "como acabar" com os ricos:- O nosso problema aqui( na Suécia) não é como acabar com os ricos mas sim, como acabar com os pobres. Respondeu-lhes!
....enfim ,outras mentalidades.
Lamento, acabei comentando o comentario e não o post.

DCS (retired atp)

Transplanted Lawyer disse...

I don't think anyone could be elected President here in the USA without being the nominee of one of the two major parties, no matter how popular they were. The closest I can think of would be if Colin Powell had run as an independent in 2000, but he didn't do that.

Being super-rich and willing to spend it on the campaign really helps. Ross Perot didn't get enough votes to win but he probably got enough votes to throw the election from Bush (the father) to Clinton in 1992.

Being super-rich helps anyway. In recent memory Pete DuPont, Steve Forbes, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Gore, and both Bushes all came from massive wealth, and for all of them except Senator Edwards, the wealth was inherited or "old money."

Francisco Castelo Branco disse...

Ross Perot was a big threat for Clinton and Bush father

Francisco Castelo Branco disse...


a mim tambem nao.
mas o que me parece é que uma pessoa com mais capacidade financeira para movimentar mais meios e pessoas terá por certo maior numero de votos do que Nobre.

É o que se faz na América, em que se discute não a qualidade dos candidatos mas o numero de dolares.

mas como o Transplanted disse , tambem nos EUA é dificil alguem ser Presidente estando fora do sistema partidário.
Apenas Ross Perot chegou lá.

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