Portugal PSD’s poll lead on ruling party narrows

LISBON, Feb 11 (Reuters) – Portugal’s main opposition Social
Democrats (PSD) saw their lead narrow slightly over the ruling
Socialists, an opinion poll showed on Friday, in welcome news
for the government that faces a no-confidence vote next month.

Analysts say the centre-right PSD is unlikely to back the
motion, proposed by a small leftist party, unless it is sure of
securing an absolute majority in a snap election, so the drop in
voting intentions adds to the government’s chances of surviving.

Still, the prospect of the non-confidence vote could further
unnerve investors, who dumped Portuguese bonds earlier this
week, sending yields to euro lifetime highs on Thursday. Many
economists say the country will be the next euro zone member to
need a bailout after Greece and Ireland.

The survey by Eursondagem pollster showed the PSD with 36.3
percent of voting intentions, down from 37.3 percent last month,
according to Radio Renascenca — one of the media outlets that
commissioned the poll.

The Socialist Party was little changed at 29.3 percent.
Renascenca also said the popularity of Prime Minister Jose
Socrates exceeded that of PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho, whose
rating fell a steep 4 percentage points.

“The poll shows the PSD further away from the absolute
majority,” said political analyst Antonio Costa Pinto.

“Without guarantees of getting a full majority and without a
strong factor compromising the government’s credibility, it’s
very unlikely that the PSD would support the no-confidence
motion,” he said.

Such a motion needs the support of the PSD to be passed,
while it is enough for the PSD to abstain for the vote to fail.
Parliamentary elections are not due until 2013.

Still, Costa Pinto said the motion would “expose the
fragility of the minority government just as it needs to show to
investors it is in control” and can put public finances in order
as promised to the European Union.

If the government fails to deliver on the budget
consolidation or if it is forced, at some point, to seek an
international bailout, the PSD could support or even propose a
new no-confidence motion, analysts said.

Portugal’s Left Bloc, one of the smaller parties in
parliament, said on Thursday it would table a motion of no
confidence in government in March over its painful austerity
measures to cut the budget deficit. [ID:nLDE7192BR]

In the Eurosondagem poll, right-wing CDS/PP party was little
changed at 10.2 percent, while the Left Bloc edged up half a
percentage point to 9.5 percent, followed by the Communist-Green
alliance, up 0.4 points at 9.2 percent.

Eursondagem surveyed 1,025 people between Feb. 3 and 8. The
margin of error in the poll is 3.06 percent.
(Reporting by Andrei Khalip)