Image: Silva
Jose Manuel Ribeiro  /  Reuters
Portugal's new president Anibal Cavaco Silva, accompanied by his wife Maria, greets supporters in Lisbon after winning the election on Sunday.
updated 1/22/2006 9:27:29 PM ET 2006-01-23T02:27:29

A former prime minister who has pledged to help lead Portugal out of an economic slump and supports deeper European Union integration won the country’s presidential elections on Sunday.

Anibal Cavaco Silva collected nearly 51 percent of the vote, defeating five leftist candidates to become the first right-of-center politician elected president in Portugal since a 1974 revolution introduced democracy. His nearest rival, Manuel Alegre, gathered just under 21 percent.

The head of state holds no executive power, which lies with the government, but wields considerable influence. Cavaco Silva must now address his cohabitation with the center-left Socialist government elected last year in a landslide.

Cavaco Silva, who was prime minister from 1985-1995, is credited with a swift modernization of Portugal while he was head of government. He drove economic boom years when annual economic growth reached 5 percent.

Portugal’s economy has plodded behind the rest of the EU for the past five years and is forecast to lag for another two.

In his victory speech Cavaco Silva promised to work with the government to revive the economy.

“I am committed to the development of our country,” Cavaco Silva told supporters. “It is no small task that faces us. There’s a long and demanding road ahead.”

He vowed to ensure political stability after a recent unsettled period which has brought four prime ministers in four years and recently saw four finance ministers in 12 months.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates expressed his “availability and commitment to contribute to friendly relations and full cooperation with the the interests of political stability.”

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