Far Right’s Success Is a Measure of a Changing Portugal

The sun-soaked Algarve region on Portugal’s Southern coast is a place where guitar-strumming backpackers gather by fragrant orange trees and digital nomads hunt for laid-back vibes. It is not exactly what comes to mind when one envisions a stronghold of far-right political sentiment.

But it is in the Algarve region where the anti-establishment Chega party finished first in national elections this month, both unsettling Portuguese politics and injecting new anxiety throughout the European establishment. Nationwide, Chega received 18 percent of the vote.

“It’s a strong signal for Europe and for the world,” said João Paulo da Silva Graça, a freshly elected Chega lawmaker, sitting at the party’s new Algarve headquarters as tourists asked for vegan custard tarts at a bakery downstairs. “Our values must prevail.”

Chega, which means “enough” in Portuguese, is the first hard-right party to gain ground in the political scene in Portugal since 1974 and the end of the nationalist dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar. Its formula for success mixed promises of greater law and order with tougher immigration measures and an appeal to economic resentments.

Chega’s breakthrough has presented Portugal as the latest version of a now familiar quandary for Europe, where the inroads of hard-right parties have made it increasingly difficult for mainstream competitors to avoid them.

The leader of Portugal’s center-right coalition, which won the election, has refused to ally with Chega, but experts say the result is likely to be an unstable minority government that may not last long.

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