Updated Jan 25, 2021 - World

Portugal president wins second term, but far-right gains as COVID cases spike

 President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at a polling station for the 2021 presidential election on January 24, 2021 in Celorico de Basto, Portugal.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at a polling station in Celorico de Basto, Portugal, on Sunday. The election took place with strict social distancing rules and other coronavirus precuatins in effect. Photo: Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Portugal's center-right President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said after being re-elected with 61% of the vote for a second term Sunday his priority will be to "combat the pandemic," per Reuters.

Why it matters: Portugal is currently on lockdown with the highest seven-day COVID-19 average per 100,000 and some of the highest death rates in the world, according to Johns Hopkins.

  • It reported on Saturday 274 deaths from COVID-19 and 15,333 new cases — both new records.
  • Presidents in Portugal can veto some laws and declare states of emergency despite the role being largely ceremonial, and Rebelo de Sousa has used this power "often during the pandemic," Reuters notes.

Of note: Portugal was once known for having no real far-right presence in politics. But the far-right candidate André Ventura surged, winning 13% of the vote — just behind socialist candidate, Ana Gomes, who achieved 13%.

  • Ventura, who ran on a populist anti-immigration platform, was fined by Portugal's Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination for disparaging posts, the New York Times reports. He once said Roma community members should be should be "segregated" during the pandemic, Chatham House notes.
  • In the 2019 general election, the 38-year-old ultranationalist former soccer commentator won the only parliamentary seat of his newly formed party, Chega, which translates as "enough."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on Ventura and on the COVID-19 record.

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