December 11, 2015 / 11:30 AM / 2 years ago

Portugal's Rebelo de Sousa leads presidential race: poll

LISBON (Reuters) - Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a former head of Portugal’s center-right Social Democrats, has a comfortable lead ahead of a presidential election in January, a poll showed on Friday.

Support for Rebelo de Sousa, a law professor and former television commentator, stood at 62 percent, making a first-round victory likely, according to the poll by Lisbon’s Catholic University for four local media outlets.

Portugal’s choice in the Jan. 24 election could be decisive for the country’s future after two months of political turmoil resulted in the ousting of the former center-right Social Democrat government by leftist parties in parliament.

A Socialist government led by Prime Minister Antonio Costa came to power in November but many analysts fear it could be unstable as it relies on support in parliament from the far left Communists and Left Bloc.

Portugal’s constitution gives the president the power to dismiss parliament and call new elections.

However, because of the proximity of the presidential election, outgoing President Anibal Cavaco Silva has not been able to exercise that power during the recent upheaval.

The other candidates for president trailed far behind Rebelo de Sousa. Support for leftist Sampaio de Novoa stood at 15 percent while Socialist contender Maria de Belem was on 14 percent.

The poll of 1,183 voters was carried out on Dec. 5-6 and had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. It was published by radio station Antena 1, state television channel RTP and dailies Jornal de Noticias and Diario de Noticias.

Reporting By Axel Bugge; editing by Estelle Shirbon

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