Community councilors in Germany warn that the distance and the covid-19 pandemic will prevent many Portuguese from voting in the weekend's presidential elections, lamenting the lack of alternatives.
The Portuguese living in Germany have four places where they can exercise their right to vote on Saturday and Sunday, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Hamburg, forcing many to travel for several tens and even hundreds of kilometers.
"It's a complicated situation," confessed Alfredo Stoffel to the Lusa agency, explaining that each of Germany's 16 federal states "has its own health standards", leading people to question about safety.
"If, in the area of residence, they cannot travel to the end of the street to go about their daily tasks, then traveling hundreds of kilometers to go to vote is out of the question", justified the advisor of the Portuguese communities, stressing that even several people who do not fail to vote, this time will not exercise that right.
“Most people are concerned. The consular area is very extensive, and people do not want to travel 300, 400 kilometers to vote. I have acquaintances who have to travel more than 600 kilometers, and, in addition to the restrictions, they do not want to risk their health ”, shared community advisor José António Loureiro.
The German federal government decided on Tuesday to extend the confinement until February 14 to deal with the covid-19 pandemic. Schools will remain closed and the use of surgical masks in public transport and supermarkets will become mandatory.
In addition to these restrictions, citizens living in areas where there are more than 200 new infections per 15 inhabitants, in a period of seven days, can only leave the district or the city within a radius of XNUMX kilometers.
The Portuguese embassy in Germany made a formal request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that travel by reason of voting was allowed.
“We received a formal response, giving us assurance that travel to consular posts during the presidential election is officially authorized. The travel of voters to the polling stations is considered a valid reason to justify their displacement ”, stressed Francisco Ribeiro de Menezes, in statements to the Lusa agency.
“To ensure greater visibility and an additional guarantee for those who, hopefully many, will go to the polling stations to vote, we made a statement in Portuguese and German, which is available on the embassy website, which can be downloaded or printed, ”added the Portuguese ambassador to Germany.
Alfredo Stoffel hopes that, despite this guarantee, “there are no collateral problems”, revealing that he will travel a total of 700 kilometers to be able to choose the next President of the Republic.
"I am going to vote for Berlin, knowing in advance that we have a statement from the embassy where my departure is justified, but the health authorities will be able to take another reading of our movements, forcing me to quarantine or test covid-19" went ahead.
For the Portuguese ambassador to Germany, the mandatory quarantine or test must not be fulfilled for the Portuguese in Germany who decide to vote.
"Our understanding, which is a common sense understanding, is that these displacements do not imply quarantine, neither at the exit nor at the entrance", he stressed.
Stoffel regretted that alternatives had not been created, despite the warnings made since the beginning of last year, justifying that the Portuguese Government "had enough time to rethink the way emigrants can vote".
“The deployment of polling stations was not accepted by Portugal. If everything had been planned in time, perhaps we would have been able, at least, to open in the areas where Portugal is represented. But no, it wasn’t done, ”he said.
José António Loureiro agreed, adding that “the simplest thing would have been to postpone the elections”.
“Since electronic voting is not possible, at least they could have guaranteed voting by correspondence, or postponed voting. It was expected that this would happen, that the covid-19 numbers would get worse, obviously it is not possible to solve this with two months, they had to have prepared with time ”, he argued.
“Abstention is going to be very big. It won't be a surprise to anyone, ”he said.
Portugal's ambassador to Germany, Francisco Ribeiro Menezes, guaranteed that “all hygiene conditions are met” to vote.
"We are offering consulates, and the consular section in Berlin, with the best possible hygiene conditions, and with the certainty that people can go to the polling stations without being intercepted by the German state apparatus", he stressed.
With the automatic registration, almost 80 thousand Portuguese in Germany have electoral capacity.
The presidential elections, which take place in the middle of the 19-covid pandemic, are scheduled for January 24 and seven candidates are running for election: Marisa Matias (supported by the Left Block), Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (PSD and CDS-PP) Tiago Mayan Gonçalves (Liberal Initiative), André Ventura (Enough), Vitorino Silva, better known as Tino de Rans, João Ferreira (PCP and PEV) and PS activist Ana Gomes (PAN and Livre).
Abroad, the election takes place on the 23rd and 24th of January, and Portuguese citizens residing outside Portugal who are registered with the Enumeration Commission (CR) in their area of residence (corresponding to the address on the Citizen Card) can vote.