Lisbon, Jan 24 (Agencies): Portugal's financial crisis weighed heavily in the country's presidential election on Sunday, with opinion polls indicating an absolute victory for the conservative incumbent after the Socialist Government enacted deeply unpopular austerity measures.

Though the head of state has no executive powers the re-election of Anibal Cavaco Silva, who is supported by the main opposition Social Democratic Party, would add to political pressure on the embattled minority government as Prime Minister Jose Socrates scrambles to restore confidence in Portugal's ailing economy.

Portugal's political and economic fortunes are important for the rest of Europe because its government's collapse would add fresh momentum to the continent's debt crisis.

Many analysts predict Portugal's economic woes will sooner or later force it to accept a bailout like the ones provided to Greece and Ireland last year.

Crucially, the president possesses the power–known as his "atomic bomb"—to dissolve parliament and call an early election if he feels the government is going down the wrong path.

Such an extreme measure is uncommon, however. A key role of the head of state, which Cavaco Silva has said he will respect, is to ensure political stability.

Recent polls have predicted around 55 per cent of the vote for Cavaco Silva, an economist who was a centre-right Social Democrat prime minister from 1985-1995. The centre-left Socialist Party's candidate Manuel Alegre is forecast to collect about 25 per cent. Results were expected by 11 pm (local time).

"Voters will take this opportunity to punish the ruling Socialist Party for the country's economic difficulties," said Antonio Barroso, an analyst with Eurasia Group in New York.

The government insists it doesn't need a bailout. Instead, it has cut public sector pay and welfare entitlements and hiked taxes to reduce a debt load that threatens to wreck the economy.