Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva wins new term

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, 23 January 2011
Image caption Anibal Cavaco Silva had warned that a second round could lead to instability

Portugal's conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva has been elected to a second term.

With 98% of the votes counted, Mr Cavaco Silva had won 53%, according to official results. His nearest rival, Manuel Alegre, won some 20%.

The election took place amid a mounting debt crisis in Portugal.

Mr Cavaco Silva, who has the power to dissolve parliament, has backed the austerity plan put forward by the Socialist government.

The plan aims to cut Portugal's deficit and avoid it having to take a bailout like Ireland and Greece.

Low turnout

Portugal's president is a mainly ceremonial figure but has one key power: to dissolve parliament without having to justify the decision.

The BBC's Alison Roberts reports from Lisbon that many on the left fear that, with a renewed mandate, a conservative president might be tempted before long to take such action in the hope of seeing the party he once led, the centre-right Social Democrats, return to government.

But after voting in Lisbon, Mr Cavaco Silva, a former economics professor and prime minister, said he was "in favour of stability".

Image caption Socialist Manuel Alegre, Mr Cavaco Silva's closest contender, won just 20%

"I consider that it is very important for Portugal to have political stability to solve its problems," he said.

The government of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates is next due to face an election in 2013.

Estimated turnout in Sunday's vote fell to a record low, at about 50%.

Election officials admitted matters were not helped by problems with the new electronic citizen's card that has replaced the old voter registration card and other forms of identification, our correspondent says.

Opposition parties said hundred or even thousands of people were not able to cast a vote.

The tone of the campaign sharpened in the last few days of campaigning, in part because of fears many voters might abstain.

In his last campaign rally on Friday, Mr Cavaco Silva repeated an appeal for voters to turn out, citing the grave financial crisis Portugal was facing.

He had said that "serious damage" would result if no candidate cleared the 50% hurdle on Sunday, triggering a second round of voting.

The uncertainty would push up interest rates and thus also mortgage payments, he said.

His main rival in the polls, veteran Socialist Manuel Alegre, accused him of blackmailing voters and undermining democracy.

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