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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February, 2005, 23:24 GMT
Portuguese socialists win power
Portuguese Socialist Party leader Jose Socrates salutes supporters
Socialist leader Jose Socrates wants economic reforms
Portugal's opposition Socialist Party has won a convincing election victory, ousting the governing Social Democrats.

Near complete results gave the Socialists 118 seats, giving them an absolute majority in the 230-seat parliament for the first time.

Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes has only been in office for seven months, and this is his party's worst result.

Socialist leader and ex-Environment Minister Jose Socrates has pledged to kick-start the ailing economy.

Unemployment stands at 7% and Portugal is seeing EU subsidies and foreign investment diverted to eastern Europe.

'Memorable result'

The snap general election - called more than a year earlier than needed - will install Portugal's fourth government in three years.

The BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon says turnout seems to be well up on the last election in 2002, when it reached 62%.

Portuguese Prime Minister Santana Lopes
PM Pedro Santana Lopes was dismissed by the president
As polls closed, a Socialist Party spokesman welcomed exit poll projections as indicating "an absolutely memorable result" and noted that turnout appeared to have risen by five percentage points to 67%.

This showed voters wanted not just to get rid of a bad government but to give their backing to the Socialist Party by handing it a clear majority, he said.

On the eve of the vote President Jorge Sampaio spoke of a "crisis" facing the country.

Mr Sampaio, a Socialist, said he had lost confidence in the centre-right coalition government.

In his address to the nation, President Sampaio recalled the concerns that prompted him to dissolve parliament in December.

He said the need for structural reforms to get the economy back on track meant a fresh mandate was required.

Mr Santana Lopes has been in office since July, when his predecessor, Jose Manuel Barroso, left to head the European Commission.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the celebrations in Portugal




SEE ALSO:
Portugal faces general election
10 Dec 04 |  Europe
Q&A: Portugal's election
18 Feb 05 |  Europe
Barroso resigns to take EU post
05 Jul 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Portugal
04 Dec 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Portugal
13 Jul 04 |  Country profiles


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