Portuguese prime minister António Costa’s Socialist party has won the country’s general election but has fallen short of an outright majority, according to exit polls.
The Socialists (PS) took 36.65% of the vote, followed by the centre-right Social Democrats (PSD) with 27.9%, according to near total results released by the interior ministry early on Monday.
The Socialists’ share of the vote was more than in the previous election in 2015 and followed recent electoral successes for the centre-left in Denmark, Spain, Finland and Sweden, bucking a more general European trend of declining centre-left fortunes.
The results mean that the PS, which has governed for the past four years with the support of two smaller hard-left parties, will have 106 seats in the 230-seat parliament, up from 86 and just 10 seats short of an outright majority. Four seats are yet to be attributed according to the results of votes cast abroad.
Negotiations to form a government will start on Monday. In 2015, Costa – who had finished second behind the PSD – took less than two months to seal an unexpected alliance with the Left Bloc and the Portuguese Communist party known as the geringonça, or improvised solution.
Four years later, however, the hard-left is pushing for major increases in public spending and has accused Costa of veering to the right. The prime minister has already ruled out a formal coalition, but said in a victory speech early on Monday that he will now seek to renew his governing pact with one or both parties.