By Vasco Cotovio, CNN
Portuguese citizens are heading to the polls this Sunday for a snap parliamentary election in which proposals to boost the country’s sluggish economy have been the dominant theme throughout the campaign.
Covid-19 has also played a key role in campaign focuses — particularly as over a tenth of the country is estimated to be isolating because of the virus, following recent spikes in infection numbers due to the Omicron variant.
The government has allowed those infected to leave isolation so they can cast their ballots in person.
Those leaving isolation to vote are asked to do so in the last hour polls are open, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time, to reduce the risk of infecting others.
Surgical or FFP2 masks are mandatory for all those who enter polling stations and people are being asked to bring their own pens.
Despite these unprecedented measures, turnout is still expected to be low.
The vote was called for at the end of last year, after the government — led by the center-left Portuguese Socialist party (PS) — failed to get enough support for the government’s annual budget.
The two largest parties, PS and the center-right Social Democratic party (PSD) are neck and neck at the top — according to the latest polling — and neither are expected to win an outright majority.
Left-leaning parties hold a narrow lead in the polls but the right has also seen a steady rise throughout the campaign and could still claim victory on Sunday.
Complex coalition negotiations are expected in the days after the vote and the main focus will be on whether far right party Chega, which is expected to make gains in this Sunday’s vote, will be part of a governing coalition.
Polls opened at 3 a.m. ET in mainland Portugal and will stay open until 2 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET in the Azores islands.
Exit polls are expected at 3 p.m. ET.
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