Portugal is set to register one of the lowest election turnouts since the transition to democracy in 1974, with voters turned off by the lack of choice or abandoning the country to try their luck elsewhere. More than 40 percent of the 9.6 million eligible voters may sit out the Oct. 4 ballot, said Antonio Costa Pinto, a political science professor at the University of Lisbon. The numbers opting to stay at home may even surpass the record 41.9 percent in 2011, the year Portugal requested a bailout. With apathy gripping so many voters, the result may prove a hollow victory for European officials seeking vindication for their austerity policies after being demonized in parts of the continent for their hard-line tactics with Greece.
“In some countries, people use their vote to express their discontent,” Costa Pinto said in an interview. “In Portugal, many people simply decide not to vote because they are upset or don’t believe voting will make a big difference.”
Portuguese bonds have gained ahead of the vote, with the yield on 10-year debt dropping more than 20 basis points this month.
Participation in Portugal has been falling ever since the almost bloodless Carnation Revolution brought democracy to the country in 1974. In the first election after the dictatorship a record 91.5 percent of voters turned up, by 2011 it was just 58.1 percent, according to Pordata, a center in Lisbon for statistics on Portugal and Europe.