LISBON – Portugal’s president was returned to office for a second term with a resounding victory Sunday in an election held amid a devastating COVID-19 surge that has made the European country the worst in the world for cases and deaths.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who had been widely expected to win, captured 61% of the vote.
Rebelo de Sousa, a center-right moderate and former leader of Portugal’s Social Democratic Party, will serve a 5-year term that will be his last due to term limits.
He devoted most of his victory speech to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying his first thoughts went to its victims and promising to work for an economic recovery once it was over.
Portugal has the world’s highest rates of new daily infections and deaths per 100,000 population, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and its public health system is being engulfed.
“Everything starts with the battle against the pandemic," Rebelo de Sousa said.
Socialist candidate Ana Gomes came second with 13% but close behind in third was André Ventura, a newly arrived right-wing populist whose 12% was a stunning development. Such a showing for Ventura would have been unthinkable until recently and will send a shudder through Portuguese politics.
Four other candidates ran for head of state.