Portuguese politics is largely characterized
by the aftermath of the serious economic crisis that the
country went through from 2008. Since 2015, the country
is ruled by the Socialist Socialist Party (PS). The
government has continued to pursue a strict economic
policy, but has also raised pensions and minimum wages
and lowered taxes for low-income earners. In the 2019
elections, PS strengthened its position but failed to
reach its own majority and will therefore continue to
depend on support from one or more parties.
The bourgeois government alliance, Forward Portugal,
which came to power after the re-election to the
National Assembly in 2011 had continued the former
Socialist government's austerity policy, with cuts in
state finances to overcome the high budget deficit.
Forward Portugal described the 2015 election as a
referendum on the strict austerity policy, while the
Socialist Party promised to ease the austerity measures.
Country facts and history of Portugal, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Forward Portugal got 37 percent of the vote against
32 percent for the Socialist Party, but none of them got
their own majority in the National Assembly. The parties
to the left of the Socialist Party - the Communist
Party, the Greens and the Left Bloc - made a good
President Aníbal Cavaco Silva commissioned PSD to
form government and PSD leader Pedro Passos Coelho was
appointed head of government. Cavaco Silva pointed out
that no democratically elected Portuguese government had
depended on the support of the left, "who wants to
abandon the euro and leave NATO". He said he would do
everything he could to keep them out of government.
Socialist Party leader António Costa criticized the
president's decision and promised to try to topple a new
bourgeois government as soon as possible.
The Socialist Party takes over government power
A few weeks later, Prime Minister Pedro Passos
Coelho's ministry fell after a vote of no confidence in
the National Assembly. Reluctantly, the president
commissioned the socialist leader Costa to form a
government. Three days later, a minority government
comprising the Socialist Party, which was supported by
the National Assembly of the Left Bloc, the Greens and
the Communist Party, took office. The new government was
received with some skepticism by both the EU and the
Tensions soon arose around the new budget, when the
Socialist Party advocated that the government should
meet the EU's demands on the size of the budget deficit,
while the support parties wanted through larger social
initiatives. Costa faced a difficult task, as it was
about retaining their support while remaining within the
financial framework set by the EU and not acting so as
to discourage foreign investors.
The presidential election in January 2016 became a
setback for the left parties, as PSD candidate Marcelo
Rebelo de Sousa already won in the first round. The new
president was known from TV, where he commented on
politics (and sports), including in his own program.
After the election, both Rebelo de Sousa and Costa made
statements that they were prepared to cooperate with
each other to avoid a political crisis.
Budget work was delayed, and the government had to
revise its proposal following criticism from the
European Commission. Only in March 2016 was a budget
that was approved by both the Portuguese Parliament and
the European Commission. This included increases in
certain salaries and pensions, at the same time as new
taxes were introduced on, among other things, bank
transactions (see Financial overview).
Complicated relationships with the support parties
When the European Commission reported in May 2016 on
how the euro area countries had met the Union's
budgetary requirements, it emerged that Portugal,
together with Spain, did not. At first, political
decisions were postponed for possible action, but in
July it seemed as if the EU would still punish both
countries, for the first time in the Union's history. In
the end, however, they did not give up any fines, the
countries were given more time to take action (see
further Economic overview).
At times, the Socialist Party's relations with the
support parties have been troubled. One reason for this
is that the government party has concluded individual
cooperation agreements with the support parties and must
therefore negotiate each measure with each of them. At
the same time, the government and Prime Minister Costa
have relatively strong support in public opinion, around
40 percent at the end of 2016.
The influence of the support parties seemed to
diminish from spring 2018 when the Socialist Party and
the Social Democrats agreed on several reforms,
including that the municipalities would be given greater
powers and a strategy for how Portugal would use the
money from EU structural funds in the coming years.
Although there were several clouds of concern
regarding the economy, in addition to the large
government debt and the weak banks, there were also
positive signs that several large foreign companies,
such as Volkswagen and Bosch, had increased their
investments in Portugal, or planned to do it. By 2018,
the government had largely eradicated the budget
deficit, and the government debt was gradually
declining. At the same time, it was clear that the
necessary investments, including in the transport
sector, were lagging behind, which also hampered the
development of the important tourism industry. The lack
of skilled labor, in both the tourism and the automotive
and textile industries, also hampered the development.
This was due to both a low level of education (only
about a quarter of the adult population has
post-secondary education) but also that many
well-educated Portuguese had emigrated during the crisis
years. Another problem was that many banks had problems
with bad loans.
The Socialist government was also criticized for
offering residence permits to wealthy foreigners who
bought properties in Portugal (and with the possibility
of gaining Portuguese citizenship after six years).
At the same time, there was a growing dissatisfaction
with high housing costs and low wages in the public
sector, where nurses as well as teachers and prison
guards were striving to demand wage increases.
The 2019 election
In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the Socialist
Party became the largest party, but failed to win its
own majority (see Calendar). Prime Minister António
Costa also chose this time to form a minority
government, but this time there were no formal
agreements with other parties.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Republic of Portugal / Republic of Portugal
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (2016–)
Head of government
Prime Minister António Costa (2015–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Socialist Party (PS) 108, Social Democrats (PSD) 79,
Left Bloc 19, Democratic Unity Coalition 12, People's
Party (PP) 5, People, Animals and Nature (PAN) 4, Chega
1 Liberal Initiative (IL), Livre 1 (2019)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Forward Portugal (including Social Democrats, PSD)
102, Socialist Party (PS) 86, Left Bloc 19, Communist
Party 17, and two smaller parties (2015)
54.5% in the 2019 parliamentary elections, 49% in the
2016 presidential election
parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections
President Cavaco Silva supports the austerity policy
In the election campaign, Cavaco Silva benefits from the Portuguese's
dissatisfaction with the tough economic policies of the Socialist government,
but after the election victory, the new president gives his support to the
government's attempt to balance the budget.
Civil victory in the presidential election
PSD candidate Cavaco Silva wins the presidential election by a wide margin
already in the first round. He thus becomes the first bourgeois politician of
modern times to win a presidential election. Cavaco Silva gets 51 percent of the
vote against 21 percent for Alegre, who comes second. Soares receives 14 percent
of the vote. The turnout is 63 percent.
Scandal with sex abuse and illegal interception is discovered
In the middle of the presidential campaign, a tapping scandal sails up. Some
60 politicians and judges must have been intercepted illegally by the National
Prosecutor's Office. The interception must have taken place in connection with
an investigation of sexual offenses committed against children in one of the
country's largest orphanages.