Portugal’s president is expected to announce whether he will follow through on his stated intention to call a snap election

The head of state had said Portugal would go to the ballot box two years ahead of schedule if the government’s 2022 state budget proposal was rejected by parliament.

That defeat came last week, and since then President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has been consulting with political parties, business confederations, trade unions and advisers over whether and when an election might take place.

Most of those he met with said a ballot should take place in January or February.

The president was scheduled to announce his decision in a televised address to the nation at 8 p.m. local time (2000 GMT).

While the president in Portugal has no legislative power, which lies with the government and parliament, the head of state oversees the running of the country and can dissolve parliament and call elections.

An election would come at a sensitive time for the country of 10.3 million people, as it is poised to begin deploying 45 billion euros ($52 billion) in aid from the European Union to help fire up the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent opinion polls suggest the center-left Socialist Party would easily win an election but would again fall short of a parliamentary majority.

A ballot would elect to parliament 230 lawmakers, who then propose who forms a government.

Given the procedural requirements, a new state budget proposal may not come before parliament until April.

As things stand, the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t disrupt an election. A popular mass vaccination campaign has helped Portugal, for the moment, largely contain COVID-19. The country has on average been reporting fewer than 1,000 new cases a day since mid-September, with daily deaths in single figures.

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