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September 28, 2009

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Portugal goes to polls

PORTUGAL voted yesterday in parliamentary elections that are predicted to keep the Socialist Party in power despite the highest jobless rate in over 20 years.

The center-left Socialists have blamed the global meltdown for Portugal's economic crisis and promised big-ticket public works projects to stimulate growth.

Socialist leader and Prime Minister Jose Socrates has vowed to stick with a modernizing social and economic reform program that has antagonized many, especially trade unions.

The center-right Social Democratic Party, the main opposition, says public works will saddle future generations with debt.

Recent opinion polls have indicated voters prefer the Socialist option, with 38 percent to 30 percent for the Social Democrats.

Filipa Pinto, a 47-year-old housewife voting on a sunny day in a Lisbon suburb, said she backed the Socialist reforms. "I don't agree with everything they've done but (Socrates) was brave and has changed things that others daren't touch," she said.

The Portuguese economy contracted 3.7 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period last year. Some 500,000 people - just over 9 percent of the work force - are unemployed.


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