LISBON – Portugal’s conservative Social Democratic Party (PSD) chose on Sunday a new leader to head the country’s main opposition party with the aim of retaking the government in the upcoming 2019 legislative elections.
Rui Rio, 60 – who served as mayor of Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, between 2002-13 –, was chosen by an ample majority of PSD members to replace outgoing leader and former Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, who spearheaded the Portuguese government between 2011-2015.
“We want to win the next election and head a government capable of replacing the current one, which is trapped in structurally-insurmountable contradictions,” Rio said during a PSD rally on Friday.
He was referring to the incumbent cabinet led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa, of the Socialist Party (PS), who heads an unprecedented four-way coalition with the Left Bloc (BE), the Communist Party (PCP) and the Ecologist Party “The Greens” (PEV).
Despite being the second-largest party in Portugal and the first one on the center-right, recent polls have shown a sharp decline for the PSD, which now trails 14 percentage points behind the PS in some surveys measuring voting intention.
Rio said he would focus on social policies, especially the need to boost birth rates, strengthen the public healthcare system and fight back the growing rural exodus in the interior of the Iberian country.
One of his main priorities, Rio stressed, would be the pensions system, whose restructuring and sustainability he described as an “ethical and moral imperative.”