Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Socialist Party

The history of the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista--PS) in Portugal dates back to the late nineteenth century. Like the PCP, it was persecuted and forced into exile by Salazar. The party was reestablished in 1973 in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) under the leadership of Mário Soares, who had opposed the regime as a young man and had been imprisoned for his political activities. Soares returned to Portugal a few days after the coup of April 25, 1974, and the PS began to function openly as a political party. It had both a moderate and a militant wing, but the militancy was tempered by the articulate and politically shrewd Soares.

The PS, as one of the two largest parties in Portugal, has often formed governments. In the revolutionary situation in 1974- 75, the socialists were looked on as the most viable moderate opposition to the PCP. The PS therefore received considerable foreign support, as well as domestic votes, that it might not otherwise have had. It regularly received about 28 to 35 percent of the vote and was in power from 1976 to 1978 and in a governing coalition with the PSD from 1983 to 1985.

In power the PS followed a moderate, centrist program. As the Portuguese electorate became more conservative in the 1980s, however, the party lost support. In the 1985 election, it got only 20.8 percent of the vote, although this percentage improved slightly in the 1987 national elections. The party won the 1989 municipal elections, but despite an impressive improvement in the 1991 national election when it polled 29.3 percent of the vote, it still lagged far behind the PSD. Persistent leadership problems since Soares left the party when he was elected president in 1986 and inept campaigns were seen as causes of the party's secondary position in Portuguese politics. At times the disputes between the moderate and Marxist factions were renewed, but the party as a whole had moved far enough to the right that in the 1991 national election the PS had difficulty distinguishing itself from the PSD on most major issues.

Data as of January 1993