Portugal Table of Contents
The Council of the Revolution relinquished legislative power to the National Assembly elected in April 1976, and two months later executive power was handed over to General António dos Santos Ramalho Eanes upon his election as president. Eanes had served briefly as army chief of staff, and it was widely felt that having a military man as president would reduce the likelihood of renewed military involvement in politics. Eanes would only agree to become president if he were also made chief of staff of the armed forces. Thus Eanes served as both president and chief of staff until 1981, when the two positions were separated. In 1982 Eanes was deprived of exclusive power to select the chiefs of staff, who subsequently were appointed by the president acting upon a formal proposal of the government. Eanes was reelected for a second presidential term, but in early 1986 he was succeeded by the former prime minister, Alberto Nobre Lopes Mario Soares, who thus became the first nonmilitary head of state in sixty years.
Under Article 273 of the constitution of 1976, the armed forces had the "historic mission of guaranteeing the conditions permitting the pluralist and peaceful transition...towards democracy and socialism." Nevertheless, under Article 275, the armed forces were to be strictly nonpartisan and were not to use their arms or their ranks to "influence or impede the selection of a particular democratic path." The Council of the Revolution was retained. Its membership consisted of the president, the chief and deputy chief of staff and the three service chiefs, the prime minister if a military person, and fourteen MFA officers. The council advised the president on the selection of a prime minister and had veto power over pending legislation, as well as decision-making power over military regulations and appointments. The MFA leaders declared that they had no desire to retain these powers permanently but only until the democratic system was fully established.
The continued existence of the Council of the Revolution became a political issue when the council frustrated the government by vetoing a number of laws, including those dealing with military reform and the denationalization of banks and industry. In 1982, a center-right coalition government that had run on a platform of constitutional change was eventually able to force through amendments that dissolved the Council of the Revolution and removed the residual military powers over the elected civilian government. The council was replaced by the Higher Council of National Defense, whose powers were only advisory and were limited to questions of national defense and the organization, functioning, and discipline of the armed forces. It also confirmed officer promotions to general rank. The revised Article 273 of the constitution restricted the mission of the armed forces to "safeguarding national independence, the integrity of the territory, and the freedom and security of the population against any external aggression or threat, while respecting democratic institutions." In justifying these changes, the minister of defense explained that the government "deemed it inadvisable to provide legal pretexts which might one day be invoked to justify appeals for the intervention of the military in resolving internal political problems by means alien to democracy and the Constitution."
The subordination of Portugal's military to the civilian authorities was codified by the National Defense Law of 1982. It was passed in November of that year by the Assembly of the Republic over the objections of President Eanes who feared that the armed forces would be politicized by allowing the minister of defense to choose the chief of staff and the heads of the three services.
In spite of the measures taken in 1982 to divest the military of its remaining political powers, the military retained for a time considerable weight in matters of security. It also continued to feel a measure of responsibility for maintaining internal stability. In 1982 for example, the Association of the 25th of April, a club dominated by left-wing former members of the MFA, was founded to "fight for the preservation of the ideas" of the revolution of April 25, 1974.
By the early 1990s, however, under a determined prime minister and a strong minister of defense, the political influence of the military had waned. The National Defense Law of 1991 further strengthened civilian control. The law increased the power of the chief of staff and made him directly responsible to the minister of defense. Senior officers regarded as troublemakers or too active politically had been eased aside, and Portugal's military leadership differed little from that of other West European nations.
Data as of January 1993
Portugal Table of Contents