Socrates hopes sex may swing election

Two women have become part of Portugal’s election campaign whether they like it or not. Helena Paixão and Teresa Pires want to get married. But same-sex marriages are not allowed in Portugal. Last July Portugal’s constitutional court ruled against their request.

The country is overwhelmingly Catholic, and the latest opinion poll shows most Portuguese are still against same-sex marriages.

So it is a surprise that the ruling centre-left Socialist party has included a proposal to permit these marriages in its campaign platform for this month’s general election.

But Teresa is not holding her breath:

“There have always been homosexuals in Portugal and they have already struggled , but the politicians haven`t wanted to get involved , for them it`s a minefield.

One thing is for sure. If they ran with the idea, all those who are homophobic wouldn`t vote for them. So two things happen, either they try and grab our votes, as the media says there`s a lot of us, or they try and see how they can go without turning off the others.”

For Prime Minister José Socrates making same-sex marriage part of his campaign manifesto seems something of a gamble.

He is currently neck and neck in opinion polls with the opposition centre-right party candidate Manuela Ferreira Leite who heads the Social Democratic Party or SDP.

Socrates has been dogged by alleged corruption scandals and criticism that his election campaign is little different from the opposition.

In this sort of political climate it is believed that smaller political parties, especially those from the left, will play a key role in any future Portuguese government.

For Nuno Saraiva of the “Diario de Noticias” daily paper, the same-sex marriage issue is an attempt to get votes from the far left:

“It`s a red-line issue, that shows the split between right and left. But it`s also a windbreak, sheltering candidates from the really essential questions. In any case , just as the early days of the campaign showed us, it won`t be a central theme.”

But what is central to the election campaign is the economic crisis and pulling Portugal out of its third recession in six years.

Unemployment has doubled over the past three years – Now 12.3 percent of the working population.

Socrate’s Socialist government has been blamed for tough reforms and supporters have criticized his privatizations as a step too far to the right.

But the centre-right SDP is not seen as much better. In their campaign manifesto, they have vowed not to promise anything they cannot deliver.

A lot of empty words and vast slogans according to people working here at Lisbon’s popular Ribeira Market.

For them, there is little love lost for either centre party:

“They should come and see some misery, come and see those who don`t sleep at night. Now I have to sleep in the afternoons. That’s not a life for a 72 year-old. I`ve worked here since I was 13.”

“They`re all the same. I`ve decided not to vote for any of them.”


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