LISBON — Law professor and TV pundit Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 67, was the clear winner Sunday in Portugal's presidential election, taking 52 per cent of the vote.
The overwhelming favourite, Rebelo de Sousa was far ahead of his closest rival, independent leftist Antonio Sampaio da Novoa, who won 22.89 percent,
according to a nearly complete count. Fifty percent was required to avoid a runoff.
Although largely ceremonial, Portugal's presidency has make-or-break power over the nation's fragile ruling alliance and the right to dissolve parliament in the event of a crisis.
That authority means the ballot is being scrutinised in Europe, given the president's potential impact on the country's economic strategy.
Portugal is being watched by Brussels to see whether it will adhere closely to policies of economic stringency that unlocked a 78-billion-euro ($85-billion) bailout package.
"I want to restore national unity," while "our country is emerging from a deep economic and social crisis," said Rebelo de Sousa, pledging to "be a free and independent president".
Among the first to congratulate him, former conservative prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho said "this victory in the first round gives him indisputable political authority".
Since inconclusive elections in October, a minority Socialist government led by Antonio Costa has been relying on a delicate coalition with the extreme left to run the country of 10.4 million people.
Costa has promised to implement a moderate programme that upholds EU budget commitments.
But it is having to count on the support in parliament of communists and greens critical of EU spending rules and Portugal's membership of NATO. — AFP