Filipe Orfao, a 37-year-old emergency room nurse in Lisbon voices grievances that have long been heard in Portugal.
The familiar gripes include a tradition of low pay, a public service career structure that thwarts ambitions to get ahead in life, the nagging enticement of going to work abroad instead of staying at home, and politicians’ broken promises of improvement, especially for health workers like Orfao who have weathered the coronavirus pandemic.
Politicians “often talk about us,” Orfao says outside Lisbon’s Hospital Santa Maria, Portugal’s largest hospital. “But in practice, nothing comes of it.”
Ahead of Sunday’s election for a new parliament and government, those vexations are being heard again as the European Union country’s two main parties, the center-left Socialists and the center-right Social Democrats, compete for power. Those two parties have for decades collected around 70% of the vote, alternating in government, and opinion polls suggest a close race this time.
For voters like Orfao, a bigger change in the political landscape might be more…