A Portuguese populist party called Chega! — Enough! — has secured a seat in Parliament, after winning more than 65,000 votes in legislative elections held on October 6. It is the first time that an anti-establishment party has entered Parliament since Portugal became a democracy in 1974.
Chega leader André Ventura, a 36-year-old law professor and television sports personality, campaigned on a theme of law and order and opposition to both political correctness and the imposition of cultural Marxism. He rode a wave of discontent with traditional center-right parties, which in recent years have drifted to the left on domestic and foreign policy issues.
The Socialist Party won the election with 36.3% of the vote, far short of an outright majority. The center-right Social Democrats won 27.8%, the party's worst result since 1983. Chega, which was founded in March 2019, won 2% of the vote in Lisbon and 1.3% of the vote nationwide.
Political observers agreed that Chega's result was impressive for a party that is only seven months old, and that Ventura's entry into Parliament would give Chega greater prominence and media visibility, in addition to financial support.
Ventura, who has said that the traditional parties "no longer respond to the people's problems" and that he represents "disillusioned Portuguese," has called for lowering taxes, strengthening borders and increasing penalties for serious crimes. He has called for a reducing by half the number of Members of Parliament, introducing term limits and implementing measures aimed at increasing transparency and reducing corruption.
Ventura has also called for a public referendum on reforming the Constitution in order to replace the existing parliamentary system with a presidential system that better guarantees the separation of powers. The existing political system, he said, was created by Marxists and fascists after the 1974 revolution in order to share the spoils after four decades of dictatorship. Indeed, the Portuguese Constitution calls for opening up "a path towards a socialist society."
In the area of foreign policy, Ventura has called for opposing European federalism, safeguarding national sovereignty from encroaching globalism and taking Portugal out of the UN's Global Compact for Migration. He has called for reinforcing Portugal's role in NATO, and for fighting against the "hegemonic temptations" of China, Iran and the European Union. He has also called for an "unequivocal commitment" to support the State of Israel and for transferring the Portuguese embassy to Jerusalem.
Portugal's establishment media and left-wing parties have sought to discredit Chega by branding the party as "far right," "extremist," and "populist right wing." A review of Chega's "70 Measures to Rebuild Portugal" shows it to be a conservative party promoting classical liberal economic policies and traditional social values. These policies include:
- Promote the teaching of Portuguese history and culture.
- Overturn the Parity Law (Lei da Paridade) [Promulgated in March 2019, the law states that candidate lists for Parliament must have a minimum representation of 40% of each sex] and other positive discrimination quota policies in favor of merit-based policies.
- Increase tax benefits for large families and introduce measures to increase the birth rate. Portugal has a birth rate of 1.3 children per woman, the second-lowest in Europe, after Cyprus, with one child per woman.
- Ensure that parents have control over the moral education of their children by requiring schools to obtain express authorization from parents or guardians for any activity involving ethical, social, civic, moral or sexual values for students up to secondary education.
- Reform national adoption laws so that women with unexpected or unwanted pregnancies have information, assistance and alternatives to abortion.
- Change the Penal Code to require chemical castration for anyone convicted of sexual crimes against children under 16 years of age.
- Introduce mandatory prison sentences with no possibility of a suspended sentence for crimes involving rape.
- Introduce life imprisonment for the most serious crimes, namely crimes of homicide or terrorism. Portugal abolished life imprisonment in 1884 and many criminals are released from prison after serving short or partial sentences.
- Publish nationality and origin data in crime statistics.
- Reduce public spending, in particular by reducing the number of Members of Parliament to 100, down from 230, and by eliminating the perks of high office.
- Reduce the role of the state in the economy. Abolish inheritance taxes. Eliminate or reduce tariffs on electricity, gas and water.
- Eliminate access to free health care for illegal immigrants.
- Immediately inform the United Nations of Portugal's departure from the Global Compact for Migration. The issue of immigration should be dealt with in accordance with the reality and the sovereignty of each country.
- Promote a new European treaty, in line with the Visegrad Group of countries, on borders, national sovereignty and respect for the values of European culture.
- Deport all illegal immigrants to their countries of origin. Deport all immigrants who, even if they have a legal status, commit crimes that lead to the sentence of imprisonment.
- Any illegal immigrants within the country will be excluded from the possibility of regularizing their situation and receiving any state support.
- For those seeking Portuguese nationality, increase the requirements in spoken and written Portuguese, as well as cultural integration.
- Loss of nationality for citizens of foreign origin who commit acts of terrorism or attacks on Portugal's sovereignty, security and independence.
- Combat political and religious practices which violate the Portuguese legal system (especially anti-Semitism, gender ideologies, the application of Sharia law, female genital mutilation, forced marriages of minors, among others).
- Reassess Portugal's role in the United Nations, "which has become a producer and spreader of cultural Marxism and mass globalism that we are unwilling to consume, much less pay for."
Another document titled "Chega 2019 Policy Program" states:
"CHEGA is a Conservative party that advocates a view of the world and of life based on the values of freedom and representative democracy, the rule of law, a limited state and the separation of powers.
"CHEGA fits into a current of thought that, based on an uncompromising defense of the dignity of the individual (who, as a human being, has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), encourages the harmony of interests and rules of voluntary cooperation. All this in a society historically built over centuries, with its own cultural identity defined by a certain set of values, customs and traditions.
"This line of thought is also affiliated with respect for democracy, freedom, private property and the rule of law, against arbitrariness, the use and abuse of power...that is, against all forms of totalitarianism and 'soft tyrannies' that Alexis de Tocqueville so well characterized. This line of thought therefore argues for a liberal, democratic and pluralistic conservatism, committed to defending spontaneous order and promoting organic, orderly and peaceful progress in the primacy of unconditional political, economic and civic freedoms.
"For the avoidance of doubt, our political theory and practice is based on the reflections of authors such as Adam Smith and their 'Spontaneous Order'; Montesquieu and his 'Separation of Powers'; John Locke and his 'Natural Rights'; Edmund Burke and Roger Scruton and their reflections on the interconnection between 'Freedom, Free Markets, Tradition and Authority'; or Ludwig von Mises with his Treaty on 'Human Action' or Friedrich von Hayek and his 'Law, Legislation and Freedom.'
A section titled "Globalization and European Federalism" reads:
"We defend a Euro-integration against a Euro-dilution, as we defend a globalized but not globalist world, against a massified and yes globalist world. Because globalization is a global interaction of different people, families, nations and civilizations; globalism is the attempt to destroy all differences by obtaining, as a result, an amorphous mass of peers who do not interact but absorb the dictates, censorship, and slavery imposed by a Big Brother, a sophisticated name for a mere foreman of global slaves who are powerless because they are castrated....
"European integration is not, and cannot be, a dilution of all European nations, and all their citizens, in a watery and indistinct solution of standardized and all equal Europeans.
"It is in the name of respect for the difference of men and peoples, and the identity of Europe, that we reject this Euro-dilution. True integration could lead Europe to reverse the path of its decay. But a dilution of all in all can only accelerate and make irreversible that same path.
"The concept of a globalized world presupposes, in our view, a world of different men, interacting, not a world of massed men, all poor in hopeless equality, unable to make an original and innovative contribution. A globalized world is life. A globalist world is death.
"If globalization is understood as a global method of the leveling and progressive de-differentiation of men, nations and cultures, the modern Right is against globalization. But if it represents a greater and more creative interaction between men and different cultures, each with its own unique and unrepeatable contribution, the modern Right is in favor of this globalization. Thus, it is important to distinguish two different concepts by using two different terms to describe them. We will call globalization the global interaction between the different, and globalism the global interaction between massified men because they are artificially equal to each other.
"Men, cultures and nations cannot be enclosed in themselves, and this is a fact that cannot be doubted; but men, cultures and nations must open themselves to the world in their unrepeatability and their difference, not accepting that they fade into a global and undifferentiated melting pot.
"Respect for difference is an essential condition for the exercise of freedom. And Freedom is the basic condition of humanity. There can be no political action that does not respect freedom, because it would be a political action against the essence of man who is, for the modern Right, the alpha and omega of all political action.
"This is why we place respect for difference as the cornerstone of the political building we intend to build. Because without respect for difference there is no freedom, and without freedom man loses his basic humanity, that is, his prime reason for existing."
A petition is now circulating to ask the Constitutional Court to ban Chega. Ventura responded:
"It strikes me as very curious that in a democracy that has just elected a party with legitimate votes of the people, counted in a ballot box, there are groups calling for its unconstitutionality. This is to say that almost 70,000 Portuguese people are silly or have turned their backs to the Constitution."
Livre, an eco-socialist feminist party, said that Chega has no place in Parliament, known as the Assembly of the Republic (AR). Ventura replied:
"Fortunately, it is not Livre that decides who goes to Parliament or not, it is the Portuguese people. The Portuguese people understood that they should give us this confidence and this mandate, and we will fulfill it. Labels worry us very little. We consider ourselves essentially an anti-system party and what Livre should ponder is why Chega won more votes than Livre, when Livre is six or seven years old and Chega is four months old. Livre should give some thought to why this happened. In fact, I think all parties should ask themselves how a four-month party elects a deputy to the AR."
Much of the criticism of Ventura dates back to 2017, while he was campaigning for mayor of Loures, a municipality south of Lisbon. At the time he made the politically incorrect observation that local gypsies, also known as Roma, "live almost exclusively from state subsidies" and that some Roma think that they are "above the rule of law."
More recently Ventura elaborated:
"I think there is a problem of 'subsidiarity,' [a principle that problems, including social problems, should be resolved at the local level] there is a problem of non-integration into the rule of law, some disrespect for the rule of law. We are going to propose are two things: First, that there is a national census to know where, who and how many Gypsies we have in Portugal, because right now nobody knows. If there is a problem with the community, we need to know where they are, who they are, what problems they have. And in Portugal you cannot even talk about it. The second aspect is effective control over the rule of law for the Roma community. For example, do child marriages still exist with girls aged 12 and 13? Are women still prevented from going to school? To do this one must act and not look the other way. We will do this in relation to the Roma community as we will do the same about female genital mutilation in relation to African communities that exist in Portugal, and as we will do to a number of others."
When a journalist noted that only 50% of the Roma in Portugal live on welfare, Ventura responded:
"The studies we had available showed that only 15% of the Roma population lives on income from their work. I know people say I'm obsessed with this, but I think if we don't solve this problem of Roma integration we will have very serious consequences. We had a judge who said this year that it was okay for Gypsy children to leave school because it was their tradition. There is a 14-year-old girl, for example, who is not entitled to her normal rights according to the rule of law because it is understood that there must be special protection here.
This special protection we give to the Gypsy community is precisely why we cannot solve the problem. We always say they are poor things, they can't find work, that nobody wants to integrate them and then we think we have to protect them. I think we have to take this problem seriously, because it exists. The Roma community has a problem of integration. Most of this community does not want to integrate, but they have to integrate into the rule of law, otherwise it makes no sense to call this the rule of law.
"I understand there are different traditions, but we can't have marriages at 13 years of age. We can't have children out of school at 13 years of age. We must demand responsibility from those communities to which we give most as a state. We who pay taxes feel that we have a responsibility to others. But is there no duty from others to us? In Loures I found situations of brutal debt in social housing. This debt corresponds to 12 million euros. This means that there are people who have never paid a euro for their assigned home. If we do not demand they pay, just because they are Gypsies, Afro descendants or poor minorities, we are contributing to the worst: breeding ghettos. We have to demand responsibility from them. These people have to collaborate. Today my feeling is that the Roma do not collaborate or want to collaborate and prefer to be outside the rule of law. I think Roma leaders need to be called to accountability and to promote integration."
Portugal's establishment media have been apoplectic about the rise of Chega. In an article titled, "Far Right Comes to Parliament," the newspaper Público opined:
"The far right comes to Parliament by the hand of André Ventura, who has moved into the limelight after accusing the Gypsy community of living on subsidies.
"In Chega he was able to gather party militants who came essentially from traditional right parties, who had turned to a party that claims to be 'conservative in customs, liberal in economics, national in identity and personalist.'
In an essay titled, "We really have a problem," commentator Paulo Baldaia warned:
"There is reason to be concerned about the arrival of Chega, a one-man extremist party that does not hesitate to exploit the fears of the weak to electoral success.
"If, at a time of low unemployment and economic growth, André Ventura was elected, one can imagine the growth potential of this party, which is openly intolerant of racial and ethnic minorities, if the unemployment rate is once again close to 18% (38% among young people), as it was in 2012/2013."
In an opinion article titled, "The Snake's Egg," Paula Ferreira, the Deputy Executive Editor of Jornal de Notícias, wrote:
"Portugal is no longer an oasis in Europe. Here too, against the expectations of the most optimistic, the far right has appeared. Just like there, the discourse against immigrants and the non-acceptance of difference conquers the way. In line with the Visegrad group, made up of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Chega is committed to combating immigration. For the new party with a parliamentary seat, the UN 'is a spreader of Marxist ideas,' for which Ventura is unwilling to pay. This strategy cannot be ignored."
Ventura has called on Portuguese citizens and media commentators to remain calm: "Chega is a democratic party. There is no reason for unusual alarm or attacks. Chega is not here to undermine democracy." In a tweet, Ventura added:
"They have to get used to Chega and our way of doing politics. We do not want ministries, secretariats of state or senior posts. We want to be the voice of discontent for an entire people. That is why we are going to Parliament!"