Forecast says centre-right incumbent has won a second and final five-year term.
Centre-right incumbent candidate Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has won Portugal’s presidential election, according to an exit poll.
The survey by the Portuguese Catholic University’s Polling Center for public broadcaster RTP on Sunday indicated that Rebelo de Sousa captured between 57-62 percent of the vote to secure a second and final five-year term.
To avoid a runoff on February 14 against the runner-up, Rebelo de Sousa, 72, had to win an absolute majority. Official results are expected on Monday night.
Socialist candidate Ana Gomes came second with between 13-16 percent, the poll suggested.
In a stunning result, newly arrived right-wing populist Andre Ventura came third with 9-12 percent, the poll indicated. Such a showing for an extremist in mainstream Portuguese politics would have been unthinkable until recently.
The exit poll estimated the turnout at 45-50 percent, lower than in recent elections and apparently confirming concerns that some people would stay away for fear of becoming infected with COVID-19.
The polls took place as the number of COVID-19 deaths broke records for the seventh day in a row on Sunday, at 275, with hospitalisations also at an all-time high.
The country has the world’s highest rates of new daily infections and deaths per 100,000 population, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Rebelo de Sousa, 72, a former leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, has worked closely with the centre-left minority Socialist government, supporting its pandemic efforts.
He also has endeared himself to the Portuguese with his easy-going style. Photographs taken by passers-by of him in public places, such as one last year of him standing in line at a supermarket wearing sneakers and shorts, routinely go viral.
With the country in lockdown, the election campaign featured none of the usual flag-waving rallies but restrictions on movement were lifted for polling day.
Authorities increased the number of polling stations and allowed for early voting to reduce crowding on election day. In other precautions, mask-wearing voters were asked to bring their own pens and disinfectant to polling stations.