Opinion – José Manuel Diogo: Number of Brazilian voters in Portugal predicts possible demographic change

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Knowing exactly the number of Brazilians living in Portugal is not the most important thing. As in Jorge Luis Borges’s argument for birds, it will be an integer, but indemonstrable, because it grows every day.

The most important thing is to understand that the current migratory flow to Portugal is no longer just a statistical measure, it is a mental reality. Going to live in Portugal is no longer a dream and is now a natural option. But numbers, even in their everyday uncertainty, are important because they help define the nature of a historic moment.

This week, for the first time since there are statistics, Lisbon surpassed the US cities of Boston and Miami and became the place with the most Brazilian voters abroad. Not that this number is extraordinary from the point of view of the national electoral universe, there are “only” 45,273 Brazilians who qualify to vote in the Portuguese capital. But, as with any statistic, it is only understandable when compared to a known reality.

To better understand how the Portuguese are feeling this new reality, let’s make a comparison with Brazil. The little more than 10 million Portuguese citizens (10,361,831 according to the recent 2021 Portuguese census) would all fit in the city of São Paulo — and there would still be 2 million left. This gives us the first note.

If the total number of Brazilian voters in Portugal (80,866) were gathered in just one municipality, it would be the 28th largest Portuguese electoral college among the 308 that make up the entirety of its territory. There are more Brazilian voters in Portugal than Portuguese voters in such important cities as Aveiro, Santarém, Castelo Branco, Évora, Bragança, Beja and Portalegre, district capitals that represent more than half of the Iberian country’s territory.

In proportion, it would be as if in capitals such as João Pessoa, Cuiabá, Aracaju, Porto Velho or Florianópolis there were only Portuguese. Something hard to imagine.

But being incomprehensible to our eyes, this is the reality for which Lusitanians have to prepare, with the growing number of Brazilians who land in Lisbon and Porto every day.

Taking for granted the predictable growth of this data, mirrored in the recent measures taken by the Portuguese authorities to attract Brazilian citizens, we can expect an even greater presence in Portuguese lands.

If it is just arithmetic, taking into account that in relation to the 2018 election the number of Brazilians registered to vote in Portugal increased by 113.6%, we are anticipating a real change in the demographic structure.

Thus, even disregarding the impact of new work visas and the improvement in procedural speed through the normalization of the Foreigners and Borders Service, in 2026 the Brazilian electoral “power” will be at the level of cities like Braga or even Cascais.

In order not to lose its attractiveness as a destination country, Portugal needs to understand its new responsibilities and prepare for them.

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