The Portuguese Communist Party hopes 33,000 people a day will flock to its annual Festa do Avante!, a beer-fueled celebration of red politics and rock-and-roll scheduled over three days in early September.
Health authorities are worried, the right is outraged, but the Socialist government says it’s powerless to ban the shindig. It is loath to provoke a confrontation with the Communists, whose parliamentary support is often crucial for the minority administration. For one of Europe’s last electorally relevant old-school Communist parties, the festival is a test of strength at a time when supporters are absconding to hipper left-wing rivals, the centrist Socialists and an upstart far right.
The program is no longer packed with acts from the USSR and other “fraternal” countries, but always features some of the biggest names in Portuguese music.
The Communists insist they will apply strict safety standards at the riverside festival site south of Lisbon and its adjacent campsite.
The PCP announced last Friday that it will limit daily attendance numbers to a third of last year’s maximum. Hours will be shortened, corridors set up for spectators to circulate safely, sanitary conditions tightened at eateries and restrooms, and masks made obligatory in most of the site, the party said.
The Health officials are evaluating the risks associated with the plans, but experts have doubts.
The far right is making inroads in traditional Communist heartlands in the south, and recent polls have Chega running neck and neck with the PCP. Some commentators believe the insistence on pushing ahead with the festival will bolster the PCP’s rightist rival.
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