Portuguese Presidential Elections


They are just around the corner. On Sunday, January 24, the 20th President of Portugal will be elected. Unlike in the past, in 1986, where there was great enjoyment from the people on listening and attending political rallies and the population was massively involved on the campaigns and voting, and a tremendous uprising at the 2º Round, 30 years later many things have changed and so our country’s excitement with this elections. We live in a semi presidential Republic, which means an
elected Government runs our country and a separately elected President has a restrictive amount of power. Among the powers of the President of Portugal are the Veto on parliamentary bills, requesting the Constitutional Court an anticipatory review of the constitutionality of bills, dissolution of the Parliament and the demission of the government. The exercise of these powers should be done in a balanced and constructive way. The Portuguese people don’t like a president that intervenes at any time, yet it’s desirable that the president has a say in the most difficult moments of the country and knows how to use his powers in exceptionally serious cases. With this said why aren’t the Portuguese as interested as they should be in these elections?

There has been a tradition of minimum intervention by the President, only if necessary such as sending out a government that doesn’t seem to be fit for the job or that doesn’t get to have the parliament approval, however in these last 10 years this minimum intervention stance by the President has been exaggerated by the current President, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, a person that is accused of not intervening when he should have and especially someone that wasn’t able to get all political parties agreeing to make a Long-Term political agreement desired by many for so long, this resulted in unhappiness of the Portuguese people and a disregard towards the President, seeing it as someone with few powers that won’t bring any of the desired changes in our political system.


The President we need:

Impartial – The President enjoys his own legitimacy due to the fact of being elected directly by the people with at least more than half of the votes cast. Thus, the President must exercise its powers and influence without any personal or political tendency. That doesn’t mean that the President shouldn’t have opinions or preferences. However, he has to be above parties, institutions and interests. In summary, the President should be the supreme referee of Portuguese politics.

Mediator – Someone who can build consensus in the main issues of Portugal, a person that can unite and not divide, that can promote negotiations and mediate conflicts. Thus, the president should be someone who enjoys high reputation and respectability in Portugal to have the authority to promote understanding.

Diplomat– The President, as head of state, has a role in international relations and for this attribution the next president has ahead three diplomatic challenges: in recent years Portugal has been viewed negatively by other countries and investors in Europe and the world, the next president should contribute to the improvement of the external image of Portugal. The next President should look to Europe too, and reflect on the problems and solutions of the European political construction. He should establish alliances in Europe to diplomatically try to change some asymmetries and defects of the European project. Another aspect of international relations is the necessity of the President to develop better relations with Portuguese-speaking countries around the world. These countries in Africa, Asia and South America share a cultural bond with Portugal and it`s important to strengthen relations with these people. Portugal and even Europe will benefit in strategic and economic terms.





Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa – Well known Law professor and 15 years commentator on national TV, former PSD President but claims to be a truly independent candidate; Even though he’s considered by many as a Right-Wing candidate he considers himself a non-wing politician, like a “Catch-all” party, something that might be seen as advantage but it is starting to not work that well, as his voting share has dropped from 62% to 52%, according to last opinion polls which still give him the chance to be elected at the 1º Round.[1]

Sampaio da Nóvoa: Former director of the University of Lisbon, University professor and Doctor at Science Education and Modern Contemporary History (Paris-Sorbonne). He has rejected any political party involvement but is supported by many left-wing factions, historical presidents and Socialist party members. He considers himself as the candidate of every single Portuguese but is considered by many as the real candidate of the Left due to this anti-austerity stances, and the real opponene to a hypothetical 2nd Round against Marcelo. [2]

Maria de Belém – Former Socialist party president and member of previous Socialist governments run by António Guterres, is now an eligible candidate self proclaimed Independent even though she is clearly the non-official Socialist party candidate. Due to a controversy regarding political subsidies benefits she might have a very low voting share. [3]

Marisa Matias – A late candidacy that is said by many to bring some surprises, giving the fact that she’s the member of Left Bloc, that had a surprising result these last elections, and the fact that she’s a vibrant and young politician with an anti-establishment attitude, she might reach 3rd place these presidential elections.

Edgar Silva – Considered by many as a good person and with solid values it’s just another “Communist candidate”, which means that as usual the Communist party has its ideological candidate that this time turned out be Edgar Silva.

Paulo de Morais – was a member of the PSD and vice president of the municipality of Porto. His public life in recent years has been marked by criticism to corruption, lobbying and politicians in general and his candidacy is based on these issues too. Paulo de Morais has the merit of bringing these subjects to discussion, yet he is seen as monothematic since he does not discuss, as he should other matters that would be also important.

Henrique Neto – A Self-made businessman who was born in poverty and built and empire in industry. He began his political life in the 50s as opponent of the dictatorship and was part of the Communist Party. Later, he was a Member of Parliament for the Socialist Party. However he has been distancing from the party due to his criticism of past Socialist governments.

Vitorino Silva – is not a conventional candidate, he runs a populist candidacy in the sense that he blames politicians and has a minimalist rhetoric. However, he is not an extremist or an angry candidate like many populists. He is more of an entertainer. He could be a surprise.

Candido Ferreira – Doctor and businessman and former official of the socialist Party. He was the only candidate who chose not to participate in televised debates for disagreeing with the model.

Jorge Sequeira – Does not have himself a political agenda, many of his speeches seem like they’re lessons in motivation.


Will Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa win in the first round or will this elections have a second Round as the ones in 1986? It’s up to the portuguese people to decide…




André Branco Pereira, Law Student

Luis Carvalho, 2015 Graduate of Democracy and an Economics Student

Disclaimer: This Post reflect solely the author’s opinions and do not represent the platform as a whole.

[1] https://www.publico.pt/politica/noticia/marcelo-proximo-da-vitoria-a-primeira-volta-1721017

[2] http://www.tsf.pt/eleicoes/presidenciais-2016/interior/sampaio-da-novoa-nao-podemos-eleger-quem-sempre-apoiou-a-austeridade-4985202.html

[3] http://www.dn.pt/portugal/interior/belem-reconhece-isto-pode-prejudicar-a-minha-candidatura-4991974.html




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