41% of audience picked dictator Salazar

Don’t ask a TV audience for its opinion unless you’re prepared to hear the answer.

Portugal’s RTP1 discovered that the hard way with “Os Grandes Portugueses,” its version of the BBC format “Great Britons.”

Portuguese viewers — 41% — chose as their top pick former fascist dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, whose 1932-1968 rule of Portugal made use of an extensive secret police service that imprisoned and tortured political rivals.

Thirty-three years after the 1974 Carnation Revolution that ousted his totalitarian regime, Salazar is apparently still missed by many Portuguese, especially the older generation who believe that he instilled order and respect.

Curiously, the second most popular figure — with 20% of the vote — was Salazar’s opponent, Communist party leader Alvaro Cunhal.

The BBC’s format has been an international hit. Ronald Reagan won Discovery Channel’s “Greatest American,” while Charles de Gaulle took the honors in France.

Germany changed the rules of its version of the show to keep dictators off the voting lists. Teutonic laurels went to the first Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer.

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