Portuguese voters abroad to recast ballots after election mess-up

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Thousands of Portuguese voters living across Europe will be asked to cast their ballots for a second time in March, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) has announced, delaying the swearing in of a new Socialist government elected on Jan. 30.

The partial rerun comes after the top court ruled on Tuesday that an informal agreement by political parties to scrap a requirement for voters to include a copy of their identity document with their mail-in ballot was “grossly illegal”, deeming 157,000 such votes invalid.

The CNE said voters in Europe would vote again at their local embassies or consulates on March 12 or 13, and postal ballots should arrive by March 23, with the results due to be announced on March 25.

The court decision has embarrassed Portuguese politicians, and forced Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who won a surprise outright majority in the snap election after having ruled with a minority for six years, to apologise to voters abroad.

“This experience should serve as a lesson for everyone about the need to have a clearer law … that effectively respects the effort that everyone makes to participate in this civic act,” Costa said.

His new government had been due to be sworn in on Feb. 23, but that is now only likely to happen in late March or early April, further delaying approval of the 2022 budget bill.

Parliament rejected the bill in October, triggering the snap election. The government has been rolling over last year’s spending plan on a monthly basis.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Kirsten Donovan

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