Portuguese Socialist Party holds open primary for Prime Ministerial candidate

Over the weekend, the Portuguese Socialist Party became the latest European social democratic party to experiment with open primaries. It held a primary on September 28 to select the party’s candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming 2015 general election. The primary was adopted in June to address factional dispute within the party between the candidates after disappointing result in European elections.

The two candidates were Antonio Jose Seguro, the current General Secretary of the Socialist Party and Antonio Costa, the mayor of Lisbon. With an eligible electorate of 9,753,568, turnout was 174,516 or 1.8%, a similar figure to turnout in some of NSW Labor’s recent community preselections. Costa won the primary in a landslide with 67.88% (118,454) while Seguro received 31.65% (55,239). Following this result, Seguro resigned as General Secretary and an election will be held for the General Secretary’s position by mid-December.

In order to participate, voters had to pre-register to vote by mid-September. Voters who were not party members had to be on the electoral roll and had to sign a declaration supporting the values of the Socialist Party. Unlike other primaries in Europe, there was no fee to participate. The rules for the contest are available here.

Portugal now joins France and Italy as European social democratic parties that have used open primaries to select candidates. The next big open primary will be held by Spain’s Socialist Workers Party in November for its Prime Ministerial candidate. Given the lack of electoral success that many European social democratic parties have experienced in recent years, the increased use of open primaries is likely to continue into the future.


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