1 Abo und 4 Abonnenten

"They recognize their words in his"

The movement is also against abortion and sex-change surgeries. Chega promotes a traditional family-model and favours the marriage of man and woman - with Portuguese nationality. The party is also critical towards the LGBTQ-Education in schools and wants to exclude it from the lesson plan. All these demands can be found in the program of the party.

Ventura's supporters don't seem to mind Ventura's controversial statements, on the contrary: Many of them show their support for the party on Facebook by adding a Chega-banner on their profile pictures. A lot of them post pictures with them and André Ventura, clearly there is a bond between party leader and supporters.

One of Chega's supporters, who wants to appear under the name Leenoo in this feature, opens up when I contact him on Facebook. He says, he voted for the party in the last elections because he has the same ideals on justice and economy and that André Ventura is right with his statements about the Roma-community. Leenoo also supports the sterilization of sexual criminals.

"Freedom is the right to say 2+2=4", writes Leenoo in our conversation.

Patricia, another supporter of Chega, says, she supports André Ventura because "his ideas and mine are the same". She got involved in the party after she saw André Ventura on the news. She thinks that Chega is the only party, that defends the citizens.

In Weber's charismatic leadership theory followers often don't follow a leader out of fear or financial aspects - often it is passion or enthusiasm. The followers would never disagree with the leader or question his ability to lead. When I ask Leenoo about his opinion about André Ventura, he writes: "I think he is intelligent, focused and humble. Some say he is a force of nature."

Leenoo doesn't hide his admiration for the leader of Chega - like many others. That kind of support surely helped the party to gain more popularity. The researcher Riccardo Marchi says: "The numbers in social media are amazing." The party even has its own TV channel on YouTube: Chega TV.

Controversial statements - part of the political game

But another factor helped to gain more popularity, too: During the last year, the party focused especially on economic themes such as corruption and tax reduction. An appealing topic for the Portuguese people: Even though the economic situation and the rate of unemployment improved during the last years in Portugal under the socialist government, the country still has one of the lowest wages in Europe, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU. And last year, a survey of the European Council on Foreign Relations found out that 64 percent of the Portuguese respondents saw corruption as a significant problem in their country.

Miguel Tristão Teixeira, the regional leader of Chega in Madeira, says he is engaged in the party because he wants to fight corruption. "It is a big problem in Madeira", he states during our video-call. Before his engagement in the party, he never met André Ventura. For him, Ventura was this "football-guy of the TV". But after he had heard an interview with Ventura on the radio, Teixeira started to follow his activities: "He talks about things, we normally don't talk about in Portugal", says Teixeira. He sees André Ventura as one of the biggest strengths of the party. When I ask him about Ventura's controversial statements about the Roma-community and the punishment of sex-offenders, Teixeira portrays it as a part of the political game.

A game, which seems to work. But intentionally or not - these topics also attract right extremist voters - which is a problem for the party. "There is a tiny percentage of Chega's supporters who can be classified as right-extremist, due to the fact that the extreme-right milieu has been always very tiny in Portugal", says Marchi. The majority of the people were not interested in politics before and used to be non-voters - or come from other parties. He also says that the party tries to check the political background of its members. But how?

"It's impossible", says Nuno Afonso in our conversation: The number of members just became too much to control everyone. According to Marchi, the party has grown from 700 members before the election to 10.000 at the beginning of 2020. He says that's because, the media started to cover Ventura after the election, that attracted a lot of people.

Marchi is very careful when it comes to a definition of Chega's political orientation: He describes Chega as a populist radical right party not linked with the traditional, salazarist Portuguese extreme-right. That could be another reason, why Chega managed to become so successful in Portugal: There wasn't any other rivalry populist right-wing movement in the country. Of course, there is the right-wing party Partido Nacional Renovador (PNR) with its leader Pinto Coelho. But: "André Ventura is totally different from José Pinto, he is young and has a great participation in speech", says Marchi. According to him, José Pinto and his party represent the old right, which is attached to the authoritarian past of the country. Contrary to that, André Ventura presents the new right. "There is no Portuguese exception when it comes to populism", says Marchi.

The political right-wing in Germany

The populist right-wing party AFD in Germany also managed to attract a lot of supporters when the party was founded in 2013. One of the three founders, the economy professor Bernd Lucke, quickly became the face of the party and spoke on behalf of the party publicly. Lucke had, like Ventura, a highly reputable background, was young and even though he may not have had the same spirit as Ventura, he was very successful in motivating people to join his party.

Due to Germany's past and the Hitler-regime, right-wing parties are viewed very critically in the German media and in the German party system, but Lucke helped to portray a new right-wing party. Additionally, there were potential voters for his party: The only rival in that spectrum was the NPD, which is strongly connected to the old right-wing and the Nazi-system and never won a seat in the national parliament.

As Chega, the AFD promoted an anti-elite agenda. In the heat of the euro-crisis, the party was highly critical against the Euro and demanded the reintroduction of the old currency. As Ventura, Lucke also promoted controversial topics. He warned against unqualified immigrants, they would become "social sediment" in Germany, he said in an article of the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Lucke was popular amongst his supporters and they did not seem to mind his controversial statements, either.

The AFD and its supporters were also highly active on Facebook during the elections, which is also similar to other parties. That also helped them to gain more voters in the elections in 2013, as a scientific report found out. In the end, the party got 4.7 percent of the votes - due to Germany's electoral system the party did not enter parliament. In the following elections, however, they managed to jump the hurdle with 12.6 percent of the votes. A success, which Bernd Lucke couldn't experience anymore with his party: Due to a radicalization of the party and internal power struggles, he had left the AFD in 2015.

A fate which could also strike André Ventura? If you ask Riccardo Marchi, the answer is no. Right now, he doesn't see anyone, who could and would endanger Ventura's position as the leader of Chega.

Pictures of the election night show André Ventura, he is surrounded by his fans, one woman kisses him on the cheek, a mobile phone films the scene. Ventura looks happy in the picture. The engagement of him and his supporters paid off: His party gained 1.3 percent of the votes; one-third of them came from a district in Lisboa. André Ventura wanted to change something. Now he is one step further.

At least, it looked like it. In April André Venture declared his resignation as the leader of Chega due to internal power struggles. But the announcement can rather be seen as a strategy than a withdrawal from power: Ventura says, he will run as a leader for Chega again when the party elects a new leader during the national convention in September. The newspaper Diario de Noticias reports that Ventura said, the leader would come out of this "much stronger".

A bet, which might cost Ventura his job as a party-leader.

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