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Portuguese socialist leader Antonio Costa (L)
Portugal's ruling Socialists made major gains in Sunday's municipal elections, according to near final results.
The Socialist Party (PS) won 158 of a total 308 town halls and 38 percent of the vote across the country with only a few municipalities left to be counted, the interior ministry's website said.
"The Socialist Party had its biggest local election victory in history," Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Sunday.
"The result strengthens the PS and the change we began two years ago," he said. Costa came to power in 2015 after his party teamed up with the Communists and the left bloc.
Opposition leader and former conservative prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho said his Social Democratic Party (PSD) had "one of the worst results in its history".
Alone or leading a coalition, the center-right party won 96 town halls and nearly 30 percent of the vote, down from 2013 when it lost votes for its austerity policies.
A man casts his ballot at a polling station during Portugal's local elections in Sintra, Portugal, October 1, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Faced with a defeat described as "humiliating" by local media, Passos Coelho opened the door to resigning.
"I will consider the conditions under which I may or may not seek a new mandate to head the PSD," he said.
The Communists also had a bad day, losing nine municipalities to the Socialists, including their stronghold of Almada in the southern suburbs of capital Lisbon.
Lisbon's incumbent Socialist mayor Fernando Medina was re-elected with 42 percent of the vote.
Former PSD leader Luis Marques Mendes said the party's losses were "a monumental debacle, which can be explained by the poor choice of candidates and a bad campaign".
Costa is "one of the great winners" of the elections, Mendes added, because "he has succeeded in creating a positive dynamic with his government's good results, particularly economic results".
Portugal's economic growth is at a 15-year high and its unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009.
Costa has pledged to "turn the page" on austerity, scrapping some of the main austerity measures put in place between 2011 and 2014 that were part of a bailout deal with the EU and IMF.

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