Socialist Mario Soares, Portugal's prime minister three times and its best-known politician outside the country, held off a challenge from two other leftist candidates to finish second and earn the right to oppose [Diogo Freitas] do Amaral in a runoff election scheduled Feb. 16.
In the second round, Freitas do Amaral will be favored because Soares, in the view of most analysts, will have a difficult time uniting the left behind him-especially in gaining votes from his longtime enemies in the Communist Party. Communist leader Alvaro Cunhal has said that Soares, when compared to Freitas do Amaral, "is not the lesser of two evils but the same evil."
For Soares, his second-place finish was a kind of victory. After his Socialist Party was badly defeated in parliamentary elections in October, Soares' popularity dropped considerably, and the polls showed him in last place among the four candidates.