"Politicians speak very well, but the interior is only good for them when they need it," says Antonio from personal experience. In search of a better future, he moved to Lisbon and, at 71, does not close the door to hope despite skepticism: "I think we are on the right track, but I don't believe much …"
Like Antonio, there are many skeptics who feel that the so-called "miracle" that made Portugal the European fashion country under the rule of socialist president Antonio Costa has more echo outside the Lusitanian borders than inside.
Backed by a left alliance, Costa reversed some of the austerity after the country's rescue, but without breaking European Union (EU) budget rules. Therefore, most Portuguese do not feel substantial improvements in their daily lives.
However, while there is expectation of victory in the election, the polls do not guarantee an absolute majority for Costa in Sunday's legislatures. The forecast is for a massive abstention.
Within days of the vote, more than 10.8 million voters put the results of a legislature that leaves good macroeconomic data but at a high cost.
One example is the growth of large cities as the interior becomes increasingly deserted. In addition, the national tourist boom has driven thousands of people to the outskirts.
These two exodus are crucial for understanding the electoral climate in a country that experts say has not forgotten the difficult years and remains suspicious of the euphoric who say that Portugal is "in fashion."
Prodigious legislature, with austerity in the rearview mirror
"Portugal is a more optimistic country, but it has not forgotten the period of austerity, whose brands are still very present," said Carlos Jalali, a professor of political science at the University of Aveiro.
The optimism is due to developments since the country joined the troika bailout program (International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission) in 2011: unemployment in record lows, near-zero deficit, first victory at Eurovision Festival , Eurocopa's first title, Best European Tourist Destination Award, Eurogroup Presidency and even UN Secretary-General. All this in the last four years.
Despite the achievements, there is also another side. If unemployment fell by 6.3%, this is due to tourism and construction jobs, with wages close to the minimum (600 euros). If the deficit is 0.4% of GDP, it is partly because of a limited spending policy that impacts public health, among other factors.
Moreover, in the hands of singer Salvador Sobral and player Cristiano Ronaldo, these were "symbolic" achievements that, in Jalali's opinion, are not enough for voters to grant Costa an absolute majority.
Given the many international accolades, with even Madonna choosing to live in Lisbon, the reality is different on the streets, and with interests in more prosaic themes: employment and housing, now a national obsession.
About 41% of properties in central Lisbon are already tourist apartments, which the City Hall had to limit to prevent historic neighborhoods like Alfama from becoming a theme park.
Meanwhile, the cruise terminal can house three ships simultaneously for days, traditional shops close and it is impossible to rent a kitchenette for less than 700 euros in the capital, with the national minimum wage at 600 euros.
"There have been some interesting social changes," said Carlos Jalali, noting that the "transformation of the housing market" has not just occurred in big cities.
Measures to alleviate the situation are slow and generate apathy and discredit among young people who have not emigrated, ranging from voting for small parties – with little chance of reaching Parliament – to blank or abstention, the path chosen by 44% of voters in 2015.
"Most people I know won't even vote. I believe that voting in white is to show that we no longer believe in the system. It's worth going to vote, even if it's to show our dissatisfaction," said Vasco Rosa, a film producer from 30 years that will vote blank.
Student Mariana Taborda, who recently turned 18, will vote for the first time and said she preferred to support a minority party.
"We feel like a minority because we always choose to vote for smaller parties that do not enter Parliament," she confessed, who is interested in environmental proposals.
Rural Exodus Survivors
Meanwhile, the interior of the country is watching the election campaign with little interest, while calling for a solution that avoids its final emptying due to the exodus not only to the traditionally more prosperous coast, but also to the urban centers of Lisbon. and Porto, ever larger.
"Politicians speak very well, but the interior, for them, only serves when there is need. When they do not need, there is no," lamented Antonio, owner of a restaurant near the famous Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon.
At 71, he remains in charge of an establishment that symbolizes a career that began 57 years ago, when he left his homeland, the Serra Alta mountain range, and arrived in Lisbon.
When he returns to his hometown, he meets "friends who say they can't make money", "seniors who spend the day sitting in the tavern" and who see no future for young people in a country with an average age of 44. .
He observes a similar scenario in his wife's land, born in Alentejo, and is very skeptical when asked if he really believes that "Portugal is in fashion."
"No, these are phases. Obviously, if we were to look at the previous government, when we only talked about austerity, now it's better. If this is the future … I believe we are on the right track, but I don't believe that much, I don't know ", I added.
He will vote on Sunday, but warns in advance that he will not be too confident: "I don't believe in politicians, they are a scam," he criticized.
This opinion resembles those of the residents of Vilar Formoso, where Fatima Teixeira, 62, saw her two daughters leave the region.
"The countryside is a misery. Lack of jobs, young people are leaving, they want nothing to do with it. This is a desert," he explained.
Residents feel abandoned in the region, where they demand investments in transportation and industry to be convinced that they do not have to go to the capital to build a future. For them, this would be the Portuguese "miracle".
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