Portugal's April 25, 1976 constitution reflected the country's 1974-76 move from authoritarian rule to provisional military government to a parliamentary democracy with some initial communist and left-wing influence. The military coup in 1974 was a result of the colonial wars and removed the authoritarian dictator, Marcello Caetano, from power. The threat of a communist takeover in Portugal generated considerable concern among the country's NATO allies. The revolution also led to the country abruptly abandoning its colonies overseas and to the return of an estimated 600,000 Portuguese citizens from abroad. The 1976 constitution, which defined Portugal as a "Republic...engaged in the formation of a classless society," was revised in 1982, 1989, 1992, and 1997.
The 1982 revision of the constitution placed the military under strict civilian control, trimmed the powers of the president, and abolished the Revolutionary Council (a non-elected committee with legislative veto powers). The country joined the European Union in 1986, beginning a path toward greater economic and political integration with its richer neighbors in Europe. The 1989 revision of the constitution eliminated much of the remaining Marxist rhetoric of the original document, abolished the communist-inspired "agrarian reform," and laid the groundwork for further privatization of nationalized firms and the government-owned communications media.
The current Portuguese constitution provides for progressive administrative decentralization and calls for future reorganization on a regional basis. The Azores and Madeira Islands have constitutionally mandated autonomous status. A regional autonomy statute promulgated in 1980 established the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores; the Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira operates under a provisional autonomy statute in effect since 1976. Apart from the Azores and Madeira, the country is divided into 18 districts, each headed by a governor appointed by the Minister of Internal Administration. Macau, a former dependency, reverted to Chinese sovereignty in December 1999.
The four main organs of the national government are the presidency, the prime minister and Council of Ministers (the government), the Assembly of the Republic (the parliament), and the judiciary. The president, elected to a 5-year term by direct, universal suffrage, also is commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential powers include appointing the prime minister and Council of Ministers, in which the president must be guided by the assembly election results; dismissing the prime minister; dissolving the assembly to call early elections; vetoing legislation, which may be overridden by the assembly; and declaring a state of war or siege.
The Council of State, a presidential advisory body, is composed of six senior civilian officers, any former presidents elected under the 1976 constitution, five members chosen by the assembly, and five selected by the president.
The government is headed by the presidentially appointed prime minister, who names the Council of Ministers. A new government is required to define the broad outline of its policy in a program and present it to the assembly for a mandatory period of debate. Failure of the assembly to reject the program by a majority of deputies confirms the government in office.
The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral body composed of up to 235 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation, deputies serve terms of office of 4 years, unless the president dissolves the assembly and calls for new elections.
The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. Military, administrative, and fiscal courts are designated as separate court categories. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation.
The Socialist Party, under the leadership of Antonio Guterres, came to power with a coalition government following the October 1995 parliamentary elections. The Socialists won a new mandate by winning exactly half the parliamentary seats in the latest election in October 1999. Socialist Jorge Sampaio won the February 1996 presidential elections with nearly 54% of the vote. Sampaio's election marked the first time since the 1974 revolution that a single party held the prime ministership, the presidency, and a plurality of the municipalities. Local elections were held in December 1997.
Prime Minister Guterres has continued the privatization and modernization policies begun by his predecessor. Guterres has been a vigorous proponent of the effort to include Portugal in the first round of countries to collaborate and put into effect the "euro" in 1999. In international relations, Guterres has pursued strong ties with the United States and greater Portuguese integration with the European Union while continuing to raise Portugal's profile through an activist foreign policy. One of his first decisions as Prime Minister was to send 900 troops to participate in the IFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Portugal later contributed 320 troops to SFOR, the follow-up Bosnia operation. Portugal also contributed aircraft and personnel to NATO's Operation Allied Force in Kosovo.
conventional long form: Portuguese Republic
conventional short form: Portugal
local long form: Republica Portuguesa
local short form: Portugal
Data code: PO
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions: 18 districts (distritos, singular - distrito) and 2 autonomous regions* (regioes autonomas, singular - regiao autonoma); Aveiro, Açores (Azores)*, Beja, Braga, Braganca, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Evora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Lisboa, Madeira*, Portalegre, Porto, Santarem, Setubal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real, Viseu
Independence: 1140 (independent republic proclaimed 5 October 1910)
National holiday: Day of Portugal, 10 June (1580)
Constitution: 25 April 1976, revised 30 October 1982, 1 June 1989, 5 November 1992, and 3 September 1997
Legal system: civil law system; the Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Jorge Sampaio (since 9 March 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres (since 28 October 1995)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
note: there is also a Council of State that acts as a consultative body to the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 14 January 1996 (next to be held NA January 2001); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the president
election results: Jorge Sampaio elected president; percent of vote - Jorge Sampaio (Socialist) 53.8%, Anibal Cavaco Silva (Social Democrat) 46.2%
unicameral Assembly of the Republic or Assembleia da Republica (230 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 10 October 1999 (next to be held by NA October 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - PSP 43.9%, PSD 32.3%, CDU 9%, PP 8.3%, The Left Bloc 2.4%; seats by party - PSP 113, PSD 83, CDU 17, PP 15, The Left Bloc 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Supremo Tribunal de Justica, judges appointed for life by the Conselho Superior da Magistratura
Political parties and leaders: Popular Party or PP [Paulo Portas]; Portuguese Communist Part/United Democratic Coalition or PCP/CDU [Carlos Carvalhas]; Portuguese Socialist Party or PSP [Antonio Guterres]; Social Democratic Party or PSD [Jose Manuel Durão Barroso]; The Left Bloc [Francisco Louçã]
International organization participation: AfDB, Australia Group, BIS, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECLAC, EIB, EMU, EU, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAIA (observer), MINURSO, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UPU, WCL, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Joao Alberto Bacelar Da Rocha Paris
chancery: 2125 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 328-8610
FAX:  (202) 462-3726
consulate(s) general: Boston, New York, Newark (New Jersey), and San Francisco
consulate(s): Los Angeles, New Bedford (Massachusetts), Providence (Rhode Island)
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Gerald S. McGowan
embassy: Avenida das Forcas Armadas, 1600 Lisbon
mailing address: PSC 83, APO AE 09726
telephone:  (21) 727-3300
FAX:  (21) 726-9109
consulate(s): Ponta Delgada (Azores)
Flag description: two vertical bands of green (hoist side, two-fifths) and red (three-fifths) with the Portuguese coat of arms centered on the dividing line