Government and Politics

Parque Eduardo VII

Photographer: Pedro Pinheiro

Parque Eduardo VII

The four main organs of Portuguese politics are the President of the Republic, the Parliament, the Council of Ministers (Government), and the Judiciary.

The President of the Republic, elected to a 5-year term by universal suffrage is also commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential powers include appointing the Prime Minister, as advised by the Parliament which elects the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers, named by the Prime Minister. Some other major powers include dismissing the Government, dissolving the Parliament, and declaring war or peace. These have several constitutional restrictions, namely the need to previously consult the presidential advisory body. This is the Council of State, composed of six senior civilian officers, all former presidents elected since 1976, and ten citizens, five chosen by the President and other five by the Parliament. The most commonly used power is that of approving or vetoing any legislation.

The Parliament, or Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República in Portuguese) is a unicameral body composed of 230 deputies. It is elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation to multi-member constituencies. Deputies serve terms of office of 4 years. The Assembly of the Republic is the main legislative body. The President of Parliament substitutes the President of the Republic in the event of his absence.

The Government is headed by the Prime Minister, who names the Council of Ministers.

The Courts have several categories, including judicial, administrative and fiscal. The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation.

The national and regional governments are dominated by two political parties, the PS (Partido Socialista) – Social Democratic and the PSD (Partido Social Democrata) - Conservative . Within the Portuguese political culture, the PSD is described as center-right and the PS is described as center-left. Other parties with seats in the parliament are the PCP (Partido Comunista Português – Communists), PP (Partido Popular – Popular Party), BE (Bloco de Esquerda – Left Block) and PEV (Partido Ecologista Os Verdes – Ecologists). PCP, BE, and Os Verdes are left wing and the PP right wing. As of 2005, José Sócrates is the prime minister for the Socialists, the party also has an absolute majority in the parliament (121 MPs).

Portuguese public opinion and media tend to be Europhile. In the EuroBarometer's 2004 Spring survey, 60% of the Portuguese said they trusted the European Union.

The abortion has been highly disputable issue.In a referendum held in 1998 to allow free abortion until 12 weeks of gestation, the results were 50% against, 49% in favor. With a new referendum held in 2007,the abortion has been legalized with 59.24% in favour and 40.76% against it.

Possessing small doses of drugs for personal use is not a crime in Portugal, but it can be seen as a cause for civil disorder. Handing out or producing drugs is considered a crime.