On the 26th of September of 2021, every single Portuguese over the age of 18 had the opportunity to cast 3 ballots, one to elect its mayor (green), one to elect its parish council (white), and one to elect the members of its municipality assembly (yellow). In total, there were 3707 elections on this day and over thirty-five thousand people were elected across the three different local governing institutions. In no other electoral act in Portugal are so many citizens involved and elected as in the local elections the country has every 4 years.
On the national level, the ruling Socialist Party (PS) won, for a third consecutive time, this year ‘s local elections, obtaining 37.1% of the national vote. The party elected 148 mayors out of 308. In second place and with a 32.1% share of the vote, came the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), electing 114 mayors. The remaining 46 elected mayors are from smaller parties or independent movements.
Despite the win for the government’s party (PS), at the end of the night, they had a net-loss of 12 mayorships while the main opposition party (PSD) had a net gain of 16.
Cascais, the municipality of Nova SBE
Our university is located right at the border of the Municipality of Cascais and all the students who live here have Carlos Carreiras as their mayor. Mr. Carreiras is 60 years old and has been mayor of Cascais since 2011. He was re-elected for a third time under a coalition called Viva Cascais which was supported by PSD and the People’s party (CDS), beating his main rival, Alexandre Faria, from the Socialist Party, by more than 30% points and winning 7 out of the 11 councilors. Viva Cascais also won all 4 of the Parish Councils. The Carcavelos e Parede Parish, where Nova SBE is located, will be presided by Nuno Alves. Contrary to Mr. Carreiras, Nuno Alves did not win a majority of the councils in the Parish (9 out of 19 mandates) so he will need to work with one of the 5 opposition parties to govern.
On his program, Carreiras proposed several measures to prepare Cascais’s economy for the post-covid world. The three main ones are policies to support local businesses to transition to the digital economy, create a digital local currency, and use Cascais as lab to the introduction of a universal basic income.
With regards to mobility, the electoral program promises to maintain free public transport for every resident in Cascais, the creation of more bike lanes plus bike-sharing stations, and the continuation of the replacement of fossil-fuel powered buses with ones that are powered by either electric engines or hydrogen.
For housing, the program includes an investment of 160 million euros (paid by European funds) in the construction of 800 houses for low-income people. Additionally, the Convent of Saint Mary of the Sea, in Carcavelos, will be renovated to offer rent-controlled residences for college students.
As for the environment, the executive led by Carreiras pledges to reduce green-house gases emissions in the municipality by 55% until 2030 and promised that every citizen of Cascais will have a green space less than 400 meters from his or her house. Despite these promises, the opposition has accused the mayor of causing the destruction of hundredths of thousands of square meters of green areas due to the substantial number of new housing units being built over the last 4 years. On top of these accusations by the opposition, due to the possible construction of a massive residential neighborhood in the “Quinta dos Ingleses,” the green area right by Nova SBE with more than 4 thousand trees, is in danger of disappearing.
Additional proposals from Carreira’s electoral program are the creation of a fund of 2.5 million to finance an e-learning scheme for the unemployed, increase in the amount of charging stations for electric vehicles, and the attribution of 25 scholarships in universities located in the municipality of Cascais, Nova SBE being one of them.
Contrary to all the other 7 candidates who ran for mayor of Cascais, the program of Carreiras is the only one that is no longer online, as the campaign website has been shut down. Thus, the information previously mentioned is not easily accessible.
Lisbon, the surprise of the night
Before the election on the 26th of September, every single poll gave a significant advantage to the incumbent Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina of the Socialist Party, to be easily re-elected. However, against all expectations, the former European Commissary for Innovation, Carlos Moedas, defeated Medina by less than 1% of the vote. Moedas led the Novos Tempos coalition, which was supported by PSD, CDS, and 4 other smaller parties. Although the former Commissary won the plurality of the votes, the Socialist Party and other left-leaning parties elected the majority of the councilors (10 of out the 17) and the deputies in the Municipality Assembly of Lisbon (41 of 75). This means the new mayor of Lisbon will have to negotiate with the opposition to successfully implement the electoral program promised to the citizens of Lisbon.
One of Moedas biggest campaign’s promised was to offer free public transportation for people who are under the age of 23, 65 or older, unemployed, and handicapped. In addition to free public transport for some residents of Lisbon, the “Yellow-Bus” program would guarantee free transportation to school for children in primary school. Moedas also wants to expand the metro line in Lisbon by building new stations in Alcântara, Miraflores, and Algés. If you are a monthly subscriber to monthly public transportation pass, Moedas also wants to include the bike sharing planform in Lisbon, called Gira, in the bundle of methods of transport that you can use.
Although the new Mayor promised a lot to the users of public transportation, car users will benefit from parking meters that are 50% cheaper plus 20 minutes of free parking per day in the city.
Another campaign promise was the exception of the municipal tax on the transaction of properties to buyers under the age of 35 who are buying their first house. This measure could save young home buyers thousands of euros in taxes. The municipality will also return 32 million euros in income taxes to its residents. However, these last two measures could be rejected by the opposition as they have been accused of benefiting wealthier individuals; this is supported by the fact that 60% of Lisbon residents do not make enough money to pay income taxes, and young first-time home buyers tend to be wealthier than younger people who are renters.
As for climate related policies, the Moedas is not as ambitious as the former Mayor, who had promised to cut emissions in the city by 70% until 2030. Despite these smaller focus on the climate crisis, his program includes a modernization of the flood preventing system of the city, the promotion of solar panels in buildings, and the gradual implementation of a “Pay As You Throw” system of garbage collection to prevent waste.
Additional proposals on Moedas’ electoral program are the creating of a grid of free Wi-Fi in Lisbon, the creation of cultural centers in every neighborhood of the city, and free health insurance for seniors.
For the coming 4 years, both Lisbon and Cascais will have mayors from the center-right Social Democratic Party, although both Moedas and Carreiras were elected under an electoral coalition that involved other political parties. Whether or not the two politicians will be able to implement their electoral programs is impossible to know, but 4 years from now, all the Portuguese voters, including the ones from these two municipalities, will have the opportunity to scrutinize their local leaders with their vote, or even by running for office.
Sources: Expresso, Cascais24, TSF, RTP, SICNoticias, Publico, ONovo.
João Sande e Castro
Maria Mendes Silva