Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Government and Politics

National Government: Constitution of 1976 and substantially revised in 1982 and 1989 established system of government, both presidential and parliamentary. Division of executive power between president and the government (prime minister and his cabinet, the Council of Ministers). Division of legislative power between government and parliament (Assembly of the Republic). Government responsible to parliament, from which prime minister and most cabinet members come. President, government, and parliament have varying degrees of power and influence over each other. President elected every five years in nation-wide vote; Mário Alberto Nobre Lopes Soares elected in 1986 and 1991. Assembly of Parliament, with 230 to 235 members, elected every four years if legislative period completed. Earlier election possible if parliament dissolved.

Politics: Free and democratic, with variety of parties articulating wide range of poltical viewpoints. Four main parties consistently in parliament since 1976: Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português--PCP); Portuguese Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Portguesa--PS); Social Democrat Party (Partido Social Democrata--PSD); Social Democratic Center Party (Partido do Centro Democráta--CDS). Political system gradually being dominated by PSD and PS. In 1987 and 1991 national elections, PSD won with slight majorities and formed governments with its leader, Anibal Cavaco Silva, as prime minister. PS secured 29.3 percent of the vote in 1991; PCP, 12.2 percent; CDS, 4.4 percent.

Legal System: An independent judiciary guaranteed by the constitution. Constitution also provides for Constitutional Court to review constitionality of legislation, Supreme Court of Justice to oversee regular courts, both civil and criminal, and Supreme Administratve Court to supervise system of administrative courts. In addition, constitution mandates the appointment of ombudsman to protect rights of Portuguese citizens by investigating their complaints about actions of state authorities.

Local Government and Administration: Constitution provides for a number of administrative regions, but not yet realized. In meantime, mainland divided into eighteen districts, each named after its capital. Districts responsible for police and elections and monitoring local government. Local government managed by 305 municipalities, further divided into about 4,000 parishes. Elections for governing assemblies of municipalities held every four years.

Autonomous Regions and Macau: Archipelagoes of Azores and Madeira enjoyed extensive autonomy since 1976. Each had own assembly; sent members to national parliament; government's representative to each region was minister of the republic. Macau, consisting of peninsula attached to the Chinese mainland and two islands, Portugal's last colony. According to agreement between Lisbon and People's Republic of China, Macau to become part of the PRC in 1999, but to retain its free market economic system.

Foreign Relations: Historically aloof from European affairs except for 1386 Treaty of Windsor with Britain. Neutral in World War II, but permitted Britain and United States military use of the Azores. Since end of World War II, formed many international links. Most notably: a founding member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, joined the United Nations (UN) in 1955, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961, Council of Europe in 1976, European Community (EC) in 1986, and Western European Union (WEU) in 1988.

Data as of January 1993