Portugal Democratic Reforms

On September 29, 1968, Marcelo Caetano, a law professor and businessman for a long time ally of Salazar, became prime minister succeeding Salazar, who had been incapacitated because of a stroke. Although he was a supporter of reforms, when Marcelo Caetano took office, I continued Salazar’s repressive policy, especially in Africa.

A series of military and political successes on the part of African liberation movements threatened Portugal’s economic stability (already quite fragile due to high military spending to maintain colonial wars) and allowed a group of Portuguese officials to overthrow Caetano’s government in 25 April 1974 with a relentless movement called the Carnation Revolution. A seven-member board, led by General Antônio de Spínola, assumed power and promised to establish a democratic system in Portugal and the independence of African territories. Between 1974 and 1975, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, the islands of Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola would become independent, and in 1975-1976 the Indonesian Army occupied Timor.

On September 30, 1974, Spinola resigned in the face of growing communist influence. He was replaced by General Francisco da Costa Gomes. Vasco Gonçalves, who had become prime minister in July, remained in office. In early 1975 the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) assumed a formal role in the government and the process of reorganization of the Armed Forces began. The provisional government passed a law that authorized unions to operate; in this way he began to reform the Portuguese economy and social life. Among the first actions implemented were the nationalization of some heavy industries and banking, and the expropriation and redistribution of large agricultural holdings. In March, an attempted coup d’état by the right, directed by Spínola, was stifled.

According to paradisdachat, Gonçalves formed a new government, but it proved to be unstable. After a series of clashes between socialists and communists, followed by violent anti-communist demonstrations (especially in the north), the MFA established a triumvirate composed of Costa Gomes, Gonçalves and general Otelo de Carvalho, in charge of Portugal’s security forces. In September, at the Armada’s insistence, Vice Admiral José de Azevedo replaced Gonçalves as prime minister. Under Azevedo’s government, some stability was achieved and new economic legislation was adopted with the aim of attracting foreign capital. In the April 1976 general elections, the socialists won the majority of the votes and their leader, Mário Soares, became the prime minister. In June, General Antônio Ramalho Eanes was elected president of Portugal. The economic situation did not improve during the next two years and, in mid-1978, Mário Soares surrendered the position. After the failure of two successive governments, the conservative Aliança Democrática (headed by Francisco Manuel de Sá Carneiro) won by a clear majority in the parliamentary elections held in December 1979. Sá Carneiro swore an oath as prime minister in January 1980, but died in an air crash in December of that year. He was succeeded by Francisco Pinto Balsemão, another conservative, in January 1981. During his government, the Military Council of the Revolution was dissolved through a constitutional amendment (1982). The parliamentary elections of April 1983 again took Mário Soares to the post of prime minister.

The October 1985 elections allowed the formation of a minority government led by the social democrat Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Soares was elected President of the Republic in the 1986 elections; Portugal joined the European Community that same year. The economy improved remarkably with the introduction of a neoliberal and technocratic economic policy. In the 1987 elections, the Social Democrats gained control of Parliament: for the first time, an isolated party achieved a majority since 1975. In January 1991, President Mário Soares was held in office for a period of five years and the Social Democrats they maintained their majority in the general elections of October of that year. In 1992, when Portugal held the presidency of the European Community, the social scenario became complicated; there were demonstrations by students against university entrance exams that ended up causing the Minister of Education to resign; civil servants came together to get higher wages and doctors went on a two-day strike to protest the government’s plans to privatize some health services.

After a decade of center-right governments from the Social Democratic Party, the October 1995 legislative elections gave the Socialist Party victory, but not an absolute majority. Antônio Guterres took over as prime minister that same month. In January 1996, Mário Soares was succeeded by Jorge Sampaio, also a socialist, in the presidency of the Republic. This caused an unusual situation that had not occurred in years: both the president and the prime minister of the country belong to the same political party, which presumably will result in a good understanding between both positions. The new cabinet, which maintained the Europeanist character and the privatization policy implemented by the Social Democrats, has to face two important challenges: that of unemployment, which has increased in recent years, and that of the regionalization project,

In international politics, Portugal has improved its relations with Spain since the 1980s and has since then maintained its full integration into all structures of the European Union as a top priority. Negotiations with the People’s Republic of China resulted in the 1987 agreement to transfer Macau, overseas territory of Portugal, to Chinese control in December 1999. Since the beginning of 1988, Portugal has played an important role in the process of restoring peace. in Angola (a former Portuguese colony), and in the peace negotiations in Mozambique. Despite the setbacks, in 1993 discussions continued with Indonesia over the former Portuguese territory of East Timor, which the Indonesian regime violently invaded and to which it denies the legitimate right to self-determination.

Portugal Democratic Reforms