Incumbent President Mario Soares is the firm favorite to win a second five-year term in Sunday's presidential elections.
Publication of polls is prohibited for 14 days before the election, but a survey published Tuesday in defiance of the ban confirmed earlier polls giving Soares, a three-time Socialist prime minister, a comfortable lead.He is expected to easily get the 50 percent of votes needed for automatic election in Sunday's first round. If no candidate receives 50 percent, a runoff would be held between the two leading contenders Feb. 3.
Soares' nearest rival is conservative Basilio Horta. According to polls, Horta is unlikely to gain more than 20 percent.
Communist candidate Carlos Carvalhos could win between 3 percent and 11 percent. Carlos Marques, who is backed by two small leftist groups, is not expected to win more than 3 percent of the vote.
Two weeks of rallies, poster wars and a nationwide loudspeaker assault ended Friday night around the capital. All forms of campaigning were banned on Saturday.
Polls open at 8 a.m. Sunday (1 a.m. MST) for Portugal's 8.25 million registered voters.
The campaign has been marked by bitter exchanges between Horta and Soares.
The conservative candidate, who once served as a minister under Soares in a coalition government, severely criticized his opponent's rec-ord.
Horta denounces Soares' role in granting independence to Portugal's African colonies in the mid-1970s. "The decolonization was a forsaking and a betrayal of millions of Portuguese, black and white, who trusted in their flag," he told supporters Wednesday.
As foreign minister, Soares helped negotiate cease-fires to end Portugal's colonial wars with nationalist movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. After independence, all five Portuguese colonies adopted communist-style regimes.
Horta has also launched accusations of corruption against Soares appointees and associates in the Portuguese enclave of Macau, which borders China.
Soares has brushed aside criticism. "Apart from attacking me, they have nothing to say," Soares said of his opponents Monday. "If it wasn't for me, they wouldn't have a campaign."
He has also said Horta's radical nationalism recalls the ultraconservative dictatorship that ruled Portugal for 48 years until a 1974 revolution led to a return to democracy.