In October 2019, Portugal’s Socialist Party (Partido Socialista) won 35.88% of the national percentage of votes, with the Social Democrats (Partido Social Democrata) close behind with 23.56%. The Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) earned 10.56% and a Communist Party/Green Party (PCP/PEV) coalition earned 7.41%. Suffice it to say, Portugal is not crawling with fascists, which would make sense, since fascism in the country died a surprisingly peaceful death in 1974 and still remains a part of modern memory.
Just because there are a number of progressive parties doesn’t mean that traditionalism is dead. For example, even though drugs are decriminalised, it doesn’t mean that the dial has moved significantly on progressive agendas such as marijuana policy (except if you count approval for limited medical use approved in June 2018). Similarly, don’t expect Atheism to gather a large following here, as religion has long been an important part of traditional life.
Traditionalism aside, it’s absolutely compelling how Portugal, once considered a sleepy backwater in Europe, has shifted and shaped its destiny since the Partido Socialista came to power. Even though Portugal’s recovery is dependent upon a number of factors that are tentative at best, it almost feels as though the country is experiencing a significant rise. Rises in opportunity, in the number of businesses attracted to competing here, and quality of life as new concepts take root and new people enter the conversation. In fact, immigration is actually being considered a net positive for the country as well, as emigration and an aging population have created demographic challenges that the influx of peoples has a chance of answering.
Compare this to Hong Kong, a financial and cultural juggernaut now handicapped by unpopular reaction to their leader’s constant capitulation to the Politburo in Beijing (the fuel of urban strife), add a dash of the impact currently felt in the overreaction to COVID-19, and it begins to feel a bit like a culture in decline. HongKongers typically crave security, and the strides Portugal has made in the past seven years, paired with the tumult currently felt in the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, have made Portugal a no-brainer as a ‘back up plan’ for either retirement or investment.
Further, compare the situation in Portugal to that of the US. While there are a number of unknowns at present, it seems that Americans now face a decision between living as a premier democracy or a banana republic, with an unconscionable approach concerning access to healthcare, consistent gun violence and whispers of increased xenophobia. The overall outcome remains to be seen, but the factors for a fall from grace have coalesced, and visiting many cities in Portugal, one can see a steady stream of Americans emigrating here.
Regardless of all that, at present, it looks like Portugal’s legislative parties are working together on fiscally sound yet socially progressive policies. This is likely to hold until October 2023, when the next Portuguese legislative election will take place. At present, it seems the overall legislative agenda is one of “increas(ing) competitiveness by stimulating the production of tradable goods and services, promoting employment – in particular among young people, broadening the qualifications and skills of workers, reducing poverty, modernising public administration and promoting energy efficiency.” (Panorama 71, link below)
Of course, we will see all this pan out over time, but the perceived security the progressive approaches the current administration are utilising toward their focus on growth and sustainability is enough to inculcate a peace of mind concerning the direction Portugal is trending. As an American, it’s a lot nicer feeling than what I see in my own country at present.