Indian-origin Portugal PM tipped to win Sunday poll

Costa, 58, a popular former mayor of Lisbon, leads the Socialist Party (PS), which is similar in its ideology to Britain’s Labour party.
Portuguese Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Antonio Costa.(AP file photo)
Portuguese Prime Minister and Socialist Party leader Antonio Costa.(AP file photo)
Updated on Oct 06, 2019 05:29 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

Antonio Costa, the Goa-origin socialist prime minister of Portugal, is tipped to return to power after Sunday’s election after steering his country from economic challenges four years ago and running a stable coalition government with hard-left parties.

Costa, 58, a popular former mayor of Lisbon, leads the Socialist Party (PS), which is similar in its ideology to Britain’s Labour party. He and his party are leading several opinion polls, hoping to win a majority in the 230-member assembly.

Costa, whose nickname is ‘Babush’ (‘little boy’ in Konkani), was presented the Overseas Citizen of India card by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a brief visit to Lisbon in June 2017. He visited his ancestral home in Goa in early 2017.

Credited with providing a stable government that aided economic growth, Costa’s tenure has seen the return of a large number of professionals and others who had left the country due to lack of job opportunities. A boom in tourism and wider recovery in Europe also helped.

PS’s main rival is the Social Democratic Party (PSD) led by Rui Rio, former mayor of Porto. Unlike its name, PSD is a centre-right party that won 89 seats in 2015, while the PS won 86.

PSD’s former leader, Pedro Passos Coelho, formed a coalition government, but was voted out by the Costa-led opposition, paving the way for the first Socialist government since dictatorship was overthrown in 1974.

Costa formed a ‘geringonca’ (improvised solution) government with two hard-left parties that many did not give more than six months to survive at the time. Lisbon-based observers say his biggest achievement has been providing political stability to the country.

Costa is the latest in the large Indian diaspora across the globe to reach top political positions – from Fiji to New Zealand to Guyana to Mauritius to Malaysia to Singapore to South Africa to Britain and beyond.

Before being elected Lisbon mayor, Costa held several positions in previous governments and in the European Union. He is the son of prominent novelist Orlando da Costa, whose writings included essays on Rabindranath Tagore. His father spent most of his youth in Goa, then under Portuguese rule.

Costa’s grand-father, Luis Afonso Maria da Costa, who was born and brought up in Goa, was a descendant of prominent Hindu families who converted to Christianity during the centuries of Portuguese rule in Goa.

Portugal was the first western country to colonise parts of India in the early sixteenth century, and the last to leave, on December 19, 1961.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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