Who's the greatest Portuguese of all time? Ferdinand Magellan? Luís de Camões? Henry the Navigator? Vasco da Gama?
No, no, no, and no.
According to the viewers of Rádio e Televisão de Portugal, the answer is fascist dictator António de Oliveira Salazar. The former dictator received 41% of the total vote, putting him well ahead of his nearest competitors. Why the hell would citizens of a modern, democratic country feel such nostalgia for one of Western Europe's last dictators? Apparently, the answer is either due to the sheer stupidity of the Portuguese public, or a sense of frustration with the current state of political affairs in Portugal - depending on who you ask.
People who were old enough to remember the Salazar regime apparently had kind words for Salazar's "steady hand", and admired his successful efforts to maintain Portuguese neutrality during the second world war. Some even admired his "honesty". Well, that's just about where any list of Salazar's virtues would have to end. For 36 years, Salazar transformed Portugal into a fascist New State defined by the integration of Catholic religious values and nationalist corporatism. Thanks in no small part to a ruthless and efficient secret police, Salazar maintained an iron grip on Portuguese politics. While not indulging in the same level of state sanctioned violence as his fascist contemporaries in Italy, Spain or Germany, Salazar managed to exert just enough pressure to silence any political opposition, whether from the left or right.
I could not flatter the people without being a traitor to my own conscience. Our regime is popular but it is not a government of the masses, being neither influenced nor directed by them. These good people who, moved by the excitement of the occasion, cheer me one day, may rise in rebellion the next day for equally passing reasons.António Salazar
After suffering a massive stroke in 1968, Salazar's day to day authority was transferred to a successor, but the New State lingered on until after Salazar's death in 1974. While neither as cruel or ostentatious as his contemporaries, Salazar was, perhaps, boring and staid. This is obviously a deficiency to people who revel in the retrograde personalities and eccentricities of dictators. Yet this quiet style combined with political expertise and personal ruthlessness certainly served him well as Europe's quietest fascist.
UPDATE: Well, let it never be said the Portuguese have had the final say on Salazar. Would you believe he also topped the list of the Worst Portuguese Ever?