Portugal | 06/17/2022

Portugal 2022 June

Far-right narratives (“great substitution/replacement”, “gender ideology”, and transphobia, etc.) continue to gain prominence in Portuguese society, either through the publication of opinion pieces in traditional media or through multi-platform media campaigns.

This is a direct consequence of Chega’s rise from one to 12 deputies in the Portuguese parliament. Their ideas and policy proposals continue the normalization of far-right narratives in public spaces. At the same time, we see a clear radicalization of certain sectors of the Portuguese traditional right.

The classic, violent far-right remains marginal. As has become customary, Ergue-te!Escudo Identitário and other smaller far-right groups celebrated the 10th of June, the Day of Portugal, Camões and Portuguese Communities. For these groups, it is known as the Day of the Race, as it was called during the days of the fascist dictatorship. They celebrated it with a gathering in Belém, a historical neighbourhood connected deeply with the history of the Portuguese “Discoveries” in the outskirts of Lisbon, and later on with another gathering at Largo de Camões, in the heart of the capital. A few dozen people were present to hear the speeches.


Updated in the national landscape

A possible alliance (coalition, parliamentary agreement) between PSD, the main centre-right party, and Chega has long been a strategic issue for the Portuguese right. Only alongside Chega can the traditional right return to the government while, at the same time, normalizing the extreme right. PSD’s new leadership, headed by Luís Montenegro, opted for an ambivalent position. On the one hand, he claims he will not make any alliances with a racist and xenophobic party. On the other hand, he praises the governance in the Azores, where Chega in the regional parliament supports PSD’s regional government.

Montenegro was elected at the end of last May and is still busy reorganizing PSD. In addition, PSD’s president does not have a seat in parliament, which allows André Ventura, Chega’s leader, to become the protagonist of the media spectacle of confrontation and opposition towards the socialist prime minister, António Costa. However, Chega has opted for another strategy: presenting unconstitutional bills (such as increasing the prison sentence for murder to 65 years, violating the 25-year limit stipulated by the Constitution) and clashing with the President of Assembly of the Republic, Augusto Santos Silva. This strategy aims to delegitimize the democratic institutions and give Chega all the media attention possible.

At the end of a plenary meeting during which Ventura and Augusto Santos Silva got into a verbal confrontation, the parliamentary leader of Chega, Pedro Pinto, threatened an advisor to the Socialist Party with physical violence. It was not an isolated case. That same day, an advisor from the far-right party questioned a journalist from RTP, Portugal’s public television company, about his news coverage. The Portuguese Union of Journalists then warned of Chega’s repeated aggressive attitudes towards journalists in a public statement. In early June, Chega’s deputy Pedro Frazão almost started a physical confrontation with PSD’s deputy André Coelho Lima in the halls of the parliament.

The civil war inside Chega shows no signs of settling down. An example is the loss of several elected officials in September 2021. The far-right party elected 19 councillors, but by mid-July, it had already lost a third of those (six out of 19) as a result of internal quarrels.

Chega has also tried to strengthen its international relations, especially with the European far-right group Identity & Democracy, which is already preparing for the 2024 European elections. Ventura participated in an I&D conference in Antwerp on the 23rd of June.

After the conference, the far-right leader gave a brief interview to the French identitarian media outlet Breizh-Info, known for spreading far-right disinformation and conspiracy theories. The connection between Chega and the identitarian far-right is not new. For example, in the first moments of the creation of Juventude Chega (the party’s youth organization), one of the lists up for election was composed of elements that had actively participated in the neo-fascist Escudo Identirário.

With regard to the war in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense revealed in mid-June that the Russian forces had killed 19 Portuguese mercenaries and that 103 Portuguese had arrived in Ukraine without giving further details. The motives of these Portuguese are unknown, but the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to deny these claims, saying that only seven Portuguese citizens registered to be in Ukraine, of which four had already returned to Portugal.


Transnational Developments on Discourse in Mainstream Media

Following the international trend, the Portuguese far-right adopted the “gender ideology” narrative to go against feminists and LGBTI+ people. Although in the past, this narrative was secluded to the fringes of far-right discourse, in recent months, it has been increasingly normalized in mainstream discourse through the publication of opinion pieces in right-wing media, such as the digital newspaper Observador and the weekly Nascer do Sol.

One of these political campaigns in the media was based on the refusal by two ultra-conservative parents, members of the Opus Dei, of having two of their five children attend mandatory classes on the subject of “Citizenship and Development” in schools, where gender equality and sexual education, among other things such has political systems or fiscality, are taught. This situation has dragged on for years, as it began with their eldest son, now 17 years old, and continued this past month with the other, aged 14. The two boys technically failed their year by not showing up to these classes, and their parents filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education. The far-right has used this case to stir debates on the powers of the State, homeschooling and, significantly, to normalize the narrative of “gender ideology”.

A noteworthy development was the publication of an opinion article defending the theory of the Great Replacement by french author Renaud Camus in the digital newspaper Observador. Often accused of propagating far-right narratives in its opinion columns, it was the first time this news outlet published a text defending this conspiracy theory.

Transnational Social Media Activity & Propaganda/Narratives

The more marginal far-right propaganda and its narratives have continued to focus more on the Portuguese reality, replicating racist narratives of increasing crime numbers, misinformation about a supposed “gender ideology” focusing on trans people and warning about the allegedly ongoing “great replacement”. This is the case of the Telegram channels O Bom Europeu (The Good European) and Invictus Portucale.

Força Nova, a group with ties to the Italian Fuorza Nuova, has continued to spread similar narratives but also propaganda in support of its Italian counterparts, namely their statements. One interesting development was the publication of a poster for a Oi! punk show which will take place in Porto on November 5, 2022. The show will be organized by Blood & Honor Portugal, and the bands will come from France (Fraction), Hungary (Archigum) and Italy (Katastrof and Hobbit).