Portugal Political System

Political system

Short for PT by Abbreviationfinder, Portugal is a republic whose president has great political influence, despite limited formal powers. The executive power is held by the government, which is responsible to the president and the Legislative National Assembly. The state administration is plagued by a large and inefficient bureaucracy and widespread corruption. Two political parties dominate and usually alternate in power: the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which despite the name is a bourgeois party. Since November 2015, Portugal has been ruled by a minority government led by the Socialist Party.

The Constitution was created in 1976 and was characterized by the radical currents that prevailed after the fall of the dictatorship two years earlier (see Modern History). Constitutional changes have since been made on several occasions, among other things, wordings about socialism have been deleted. The Revolutionary Council that gave the military an important political role has been abolished, the president’s power has been severed, and decisive referendums have been introduced on issues of national interest. To change the constitution, a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly is required.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Portugal for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

The National Assembly (Assembleia da República) has a chamber of 230 members, elected in general, proportional elections every four years. The voting age is 18 years.

The government has the executive power. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President in consultation with the parties sitting in the National Assembly. The government is responsible to the National Assembly and the President.

The president is head of state and commander-in-chief. They are elected in direct elections every five years and are allowed to sit for a maximum of two terms of office. The President has the right to veto new legislative proposals, dissolve the National Assembly and dismiss / appoint a government in the event of a political crisis. To its aid, the President has an advisory body called the State Council, consisting of senior political executives, regional political leaders, and ten other citizens nominated by the President and the National Assembly.

Portugal is one of Europe’s most centralized countries. It is divided into 18 districts, which in turn consists of municipalities and parishes whose governing bodies are appointed in general elections. The person at the top of the list for the winning party in the municipal elections becomes mayor of the municipality. In 2017, an inquiry was set up to transfer more power to the municipalities.

The autonomous regions (regiões autonomas), the islands of the Azores and Madeira in the Atlantic, have their own governments and parliaments with legislative power on certain issues. The Portuguese state is represented on the islands by a minister in each government.

Political parties

Two relatively equal parties dominate politics: the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) and the bourgeois Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD). The differences between them are quite small: both advocate a market-oriented policy and are positive for EU cooperation. In principle, PS is more focused on preserving the welfare system than PSD, but PS has also been forced to implement austerity and cut social security systems in office.

The Socialist Party was founded in exile in the early 1970s by, among others, Mário Soares, who was president from 1986 to 1996. The party advocates a social democratic policy. It was led by José Sócrates from 2004 and sat in office 2005–2011 with Sócrates as prime minister. After an election loss in 2011, Sócrates was replaced as party leader by António José Seguro. In 2014, a new party leader change occurred when António Costa took over. The Socialist Party won the election in the fall of 2015 and then formed a minority government. The party also won in the 2019 elections, and continued to rule in the minority.

PSD was formed in 1974 under the slogan “Social Democracy for Portugal”, but is now liberal-conservative and has its main support of the middle class. The party held government power 2002-2005 along with the conservative Democratic and Social Center People’s Party (Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular, CDS-PP). The PSD was led by José Manuel Durão Barroso in power in 2002, who resigned in 2004 after being appointed President of the European Commission. Barroso was then replaced by Pedro Santana Lopes, who left the post a year later when PS won the election. PSD and CDS-PP returned to office through election victory in 2011, with the new PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister. In the bourgeois government that ruled the country in 2011–2015, the PSD again ruled with the CDS-PP, which has nationalism and EU opposition to its main political issues. The party’s attitude to the EU led to its exclusion from the Christian Democratic Party group in the European Parliament.

Prior to the 2015 elections, PSD and CDS-PP collaborated in the Alliance Forward Portugal (Portugal à Frente, PàF). They put on common lists in all electoral districts but lost their majority in the National Assembly. Nevertheless, PSD, as the largest party, was commissioned to form a new government. However, this was forced to resign after only a few weeks since it lost a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. In early 2018, Social Democrats elected Rui Rio, economist and former mayor of Porto, as new party leader, after Pedro Passos Coelho. He struck a conciliatory tone towards the Socialist Party.

The Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) was founded in 1921 but was banned during the dictatorship from the late 1920s to 1974. The party has made only minor changes to the party program since the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe after 1989. In several elections, the PCP has in the Alliance Democratic Coalition (Coligação Democrática Unitária, CDU) together with the Green Party (Partido Ecologista “Os Verdes”, PEV). The PCP mainly supports farmers and industrial workers in Alentejo, the plain in the south. Although the Communists have generally lost ground since 1979, the CDU made a good choice in 2015 and became a support party to the Socialist Party government after the election (seeCurrent Policy and Calendar). After the 2019 elections, however, the PS government refrained from concluding any new settlement with the CDU.

In 1999, three parties on the left formed a new alliance, the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda, BE), which has since been represented in the National Assembly. After the 2015 election, the Left Bloc also became a support party for the socialist minority government. After the 2019 election, the alliance’s influence seemed to diminish.

The left parties have the largest support in southern Portugal, which is more urbanized and secularized than the northern part of the country, where PSD and CDS-PP have the most supporters.

People, animals and nature (Pessoas-Animais-Natureza, Pan) were formed in 2011 and elected to Parliament in 2015.

In 2014, the eco-socialist Fri (Livre) was formed, which won its first mandate in the natonal assembly in the 2019 elections.

In 2019, a newly formed right-wing populist party, Chega (Nog), entered Parliament for the first time since democracy was reinstated. However, it received only one mandate. It is led by a lawyer and former football commentator André Ventura.

The political commitment of the Portuguese has waned in recent years. Politics has increasingly been perceived as a concern for a small elite that lacks contact with ordinary Portuguese. The lack of political interest has been reflected in voter turnout, which is among the lowest in Western Europe.

Portugal Urban Population



Local elections will be a bourgeois success

The bourgeois opposition is strongly advancing in the municipal elections. The reason is said to be a widespread popular dissatisfaction with the austerity policy of the social government.


The left split before the presidential election

The 80-year-old former President Mário Soares of the Socialist Party announces that he will run in the January 2006 presidential election. which has the support of the Greens, the Left Bloc’s Francisco Louçã and António Garcia Pereira of the Communist Labor Party. The bourgeois side is gathered around a presidential candidate: former Prime Minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva of the PSD, who leads clearly in the polls.


Extensive forest fires

The government is asking the outside world for help after prolonged drought caused forest fires in large parts of the country. The drought is described as the worst since the 1940s. Particularly difficult is the situation in the Algarve in the south where the water is rationed hard. At least 140,000 hectares of bushland and forest are destroyed by the fires.


The EU gives Portugal more time

The European Commission gives Portugal a deadline for 2008 to reduce the state’s budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP.


The budget deficit exceeds the euro zone limit

The deficit in the Portuguese state budget exceeds 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is the highest ever recorded in the euro zone, whose maximum allowable limit is 3 percent. As a result, the government decides to dismiss 75,000 of the country’s 700,000 public servants by 2009. Salary payments to government employees in 2005 amount to 15 percent of GDP. The retirement age of public servants is to be increased from 60 years to 65, and the sickness benefit must be reduced from 100 percent of the salary to 65 per cent. VAT is increased by 2 percentage points to 21 percent. The tax on tobacco and fuel is also being increased, while at the same time introducing a 42 percent tax ceiling for those earning more than 60,000 euros a year.


The Socialist Party forms a government

The Socialist Party forms a majority government. The PS leader and former Minister of the Environment, José Sócrates, are appointed government leaders and become prime minister in a new majority government. He has been appointed Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral, who previously belonged to the Conservative PP but is now an independent politician.


The Socialist Party wins parliamentary elections

The Socialist Party (PS) is getting rolling. In a new election to the National Assembly (Parliament), PS receives 45 percent of the vote, giving the Social Democratic opposition party its own majority in the Assembly with 120 of the 230 seats. The second largest is the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), which receives 28 percent of the vote and 72 seats. The Alliance Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU), which consists of left parties and the environmental party De Gröna, wins 14 seats. The Conservative Democratic and Social Center – the People’s Party (CDS-PP) takes home 12 seats, while 8 seats go to the Left Bloc. The turnout is 65 percent.