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The Portuguese Constitution defines the bodies that exercise sovereign power in the country, which include the President of the Republic, the Assembly of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts.  The Assembly of the Republic is composed of deputies elected for electoral areas, called “circles,” that are geographically defined by law.  They have the power to propose laws and question the Government regarding its actions.  The Assembly of the Republic has political, legislative, and oversight powers. In addition to deputies, parliamentary groups, the Government, and groups of registered electors also have the power to initiate legislation and referenda.

I. Introduction

Portugal is a sovereign Republic, based on the dignity of the human person and the will of the people, and committed to building a free, just, and solidary society.[1]  The Portuguese Republic is a democratic state based on the rule of law, the sovereignty of the people, plural democratic expression and organization, respect for and the guarantee of the effective implementation of fundamental rights and freedoms, and the separation and interdependence of powers, all with a view to achieving economic, social, and cultural democracy and deepening participatory democracy.[2] 

 

The political power lies with the people and must be exercised in accordance with the Constitution.[3]  The direct and active participation in politics by men and women is a fundamental instrument in the consolidation of the democratic system, and the law must promote both equality in the exercise of civic and political rights and the absence of gender-based discrimination in access to political office.[4]

 

The President of the Republic, the Assembly of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts constitute the bodies that exercise sovereign power.[5] 

 

The formation, composition, responsibilities and power, and modus operandi of the bodies that exercise sovereign power are those laid down in the Constitution.[6]  Bodies that exercise sovereign power must be separate and interdependent, as provided by the Constitution.[7]  No body that exercises sovereign power and belongs to an autonomous region or local authority should delegate its powers to other bodies, save in such cases and under such terms as are expressly authorized in the Constitution and the law.[8]

 

A.  President of the Republic

 

The President of the Republic represents the Portuguese Republic; guarantees the national independence, the unity of the state, and the proper functioning of the country’s democratic institutions; and is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.[9]

 

B.  Assembly of the Republic

 

Portugal has a unicameral legislature, the Assembly of the Republic, that represents all Portuguese citizens.[10]  Its composition and political and legislative responsibilities are discussed below.

 

C.  Government

 

The Government is the body that conducts the country’s general policy and the supreme authority in the Public Administration.[11]  The Government is composed of the Prime Minister, Ministers, and Secretaries and Under Secretaries of State.[12]  The Government may include one or more Deputy Prime Ministers.[13]  The number, name, and responsibilities of the ministries and secretariats and the means of coordination between them are established in each case by the decree appointing their officers, or by executive law.[14]

 

The President of the Republic appoints the Prime Minister after consulting the parties with seats in the Assembly of the Republic and in the light of the electoral results.[15]  The remaining members of the Government are appointed by the President of the Republic upon a proposal from the Prime Minister.[16]

 


 

D.  Courts

 

The courts, which exercise sovereign power, have the responsibility to administer justice in the name of the people.[17]  In administering justice, the courts must ensure the defense of those citizens’ rights and interests that are protected by law, repress breaches of the democratic rule of law, and resolve public and private conflicts of interest.[18]

 

II.  The Assembly of the Republic

 

A.  Composition

 

The Assembly of the Republic must have a minimum of 180 and a maximum of 230 deputies (Deputados), as established by electoral law.[19]

 

Deputies have the following powers:

 

a. To submit draft amendments to the Constitution;

 

b. To submit bills of law (projectos de lei), draft amendments to the internal regulation (Regulamento), draft resolutions (resolução), particularly in relation to referenda, and draft decisions (propostas de deliberação), and to request that they be scheduled for debate;

 

c. To take part and speak in parliamentary debates, as established by the internal regulation;

 

d. To question the Government about any of its acts or those of the public administration, and to obtain answers within a reasonable period of time, save the provisions of the law concerning state secrets;

 

e. To request and obtain from the Government or the governing bodies of any public entity, such information and documents and official publications deemed useful to the exercise of their mandate;

 

f. To request the formation of parliamentary committees of inquiry;

 

g. The powers established by the internal regulation.[20]

 

B.  Powers

 

1.  Political and Legislative Powers

 

Article 161 of the Constitution determines that the Assembly of the Republic is responsible for

 

a. Passing amendments to the Constitution in accordance with article 284 (competence and time for revisions); article 285 (revision initiative); article 286 (approval and enactment); article 287 (new text of the Constitution); article 288 (matters in which revision is restricted); and article 289 (circumstances in which revision is restricted) of the Constitution;  

 

b. Passing the political and administrative statutes of the autonomous regions and the laws governing the election of the deputies of their Legislative Assemblies;

 

c. Making laws on all matters, save those that are the exclusive responsibility of the Government under the Constitution;

 

d. Granting the Government legislative authorizations;

 

e. Granting the Legislative Assemblies of the autonomous regions the authorizations provided for in article 227(1)(b), which authorizes the Legislative Assemblies to legislate on matters that fall within the Assembly of the Republic’s partially exclusive responsibility to legislate;

 

f. Granting generic amnesties and pardons;

 

g. Upon proposals from the Government, passing the laws on the Major Options of the National Plans and the State Budget;

 

h. Authorizing the Government to contract and grant loans and engage in other lending operations, apart from floating debt operations, laying down the general terms and conditions governing such loans and lending operations, and setting the upper limit for guarantees to be given by the Government in any given year;

 

i. Passing treaties, particularly those that entail Portugal’s participation in international organizations, friendship, peace, defense, the rectification of borders or military affairs, as well as international agreements that address matters which are the exclusive responsibility of the Assembly, or which the Government deems fit to submit to the Assembly for consideration;

 

j. Proposing to the President of the Republic that important issues of national interest be submitted to referendum;

 

l. Authorizing and confirming declarations of a state of siege or a state of emergency;

 

m. Authorizing the President of the Republic to declare war or to make peace;

 

n. Declaring, as established by law, on such matters awaiting decision by European Union bodies as concern the sphere of its exclusive legislative responsibility;

 

o. Performing such other functions as the Constitution and the law may allocate to it.[21]

 

2.  Oversight Powers

 

In the performance of its oversight functions the Assembly of the Republic is responsible for

 

a. Overseeing compliance with the Constitution and the laws and considering the actions of the Government and the Public Administration;

 

b. Considering the manner in which a declaration of a state of siege or a state of emergency has been applied;

 

c. Considering executive laws, save those made under the Government’s exclusive legislative responsibility, and considering the regional legislative decrees provided for in Article 227(1)b, both for the purpose of determining whether they should be amended or cease to be in force;

 

d. Receiving the accounts of the state and such other public bodies as determined by law. Such accounts must be submitted by 31 December of the following year, together with the opinion of the Audit Court and the other items needed to consider them;

 

e. Considering reports on the execution of national plans.[22]

 

3.  Powers in Relation to Other Bodies

 

In relation to other bodies, article 163 of the Constitution determines that the Assembly of the Republic is responsible for

 

a. Witnessing the President of the Republic’s inauguration;

 

b. Consenting to the President of the Republic’s absence from Portuguese territory;

 

c. Promoting the bringing of proceedings against the President of the Republic for crimes committed in the performance of his or her functions, and deciding whether to suspend members of the Government in the case provided for in Article 196, which deals with lifting immunity from criminal prosecution from members of the Government;

 

d. Considering the Government’s Program;

 

e. Voting on motions of confidence (voto de confiança) or no confidence (censura) in the Government;

 

f. As established by law, supervising and considering Portugal’s participation in the process of constructing the European Union;

 

g. Under the proportional representation system, electing five members of the Council of State (Conselho de Estado) and those members of the Supreme Council of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Conselho Superior do Ministério Público) whom the Assembly is responsible for appointing;

 

h. By a majority that is at least equal to two-thirds of all deputies present and greater than an absolute majority of all deputies in full exercise of their functions, electing ten judges to the Constitutional Tribunal, the Ombudsman (Provedor de Justiça), the President of the Economic and Social Council, seven members of the Supreme Judicial Council (Conselho Superior da Magistratura), the members of the media regulatory body and the members of all other constitutional bodies, appointments to which are the responsibility of the Assembly of the Republic by law;

 

i. Supervising the involvement of military contingents and security forces abroad, as established by law.[23]

4. Exclusive Powers to Legislate

 

Pursuant to article 164 of the Constitution, the Assembly of the Republic has exclusive powers to legislate on

 

a. Elections to bodies that exercise sovereign power;

 

b. Rules to be used in referenda;

 

c. The organization, operation and proceedings of the Constitutional Tribunal;

 

d. The organization of national defense, the definition of the duties derived therefrom and the basic general elements of the organization, operation, re-equipping and discipline of the Armed Forces;

 

e. Rules governing states of siege and states of emergency;

 

f. The acquisition, loss, and reacquisition of Portuguese citizenship;

 

g. The definition of the limits of territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone, and Portugal’s rights to the adjacent seabed;

 

h. Political associations and parties;

 

i. The basic elements of the education system;

 

j. The election of the deputies of the Legislative Assemblies of the autonomous regions;

 

l. The election of local government officers and other elections conducted by direct, universal suffrage, as well as elections to the remaining constitutional bodies;

 

m. The statute and role of the officers of bodies that exercise sovereign power and local government officers, as well as of the officers of the remaining constitutional bodies and of all those who are elected by direct, universal suffrage;

 

n. Without prejudice to the powers of the autonomous regions, the creation, abolition, and modification of local authorities and the rules governing them;

 

o. Restrictions on the exercise of rights by full-time military and militarized personnel on active service and by members of the police forces and security services;

 

p. The rules governing the appointment of members of European Union bodies, with the exception of the Commission;

 

q. The rules governing the Republic’s intelligence system and state secrets;

 

r. The general rules governing the preparation and organization of the budgets of the state, the autonomous regions, and local authorities;

 

s. The rules governing national symbols;

 

t. The rules governing the finances of the autonomous regions;

 

u. The rules governing the police forces and security services;

 

v. The rules governing the organizational, administrative, and financial autonomy of the President of the Republic’s supporting services.[24]

 

5. Partial Powers to Legislate

According to article 165 of the Constitution, unless the Government has been given legislative authority, it is the exclusive competence of the Assembly of the Republic to legislate on the following matters:

 

a. People’s status and legal capacity;

 

b. Rights, freedoms, and guarantees;

 

c. The definition of crimes, punishments, security measures, and the preconditions therefore, and criminal procedure;

 

d. The general rules for punishing disciplinary violations, and those governing administrative offenses and the applicable proceedings;

 

e. The general rules governing requisitions and expropriations in the public interest;

 

f. The basic elements of the social security system and the national health service;

 

g. The basic elements of the rules for protecting nature, the ecological balance, and the cultural heritage;

 

h. The general rules governing rural and urban rentals;

 

i. The creation of taxes and the fiscal system, and the general rules governing duties and other financial payments to public bodies;

 

j. The definition of sectors of ownership of the means of production, including that of basic sectors in which private businesses and other bodies of a similar nature shall be forbidden to act;

 

l. The means and forms of intervention, expropriation, nationalization, and privatization of and in relation to means of production and soils in the public interest, together with criteria for setting compensation in such cases;

 

m. The rules governing economic and social development plans and the composition of the Economic and Social Council (Conselho Económico e Social);

 

n. The basic elements of the agricultural policy, including the setting of the maximum and minimum limits for farming units;

 

o. The monetary system and the standard for weights and measures;

 

p. The organization and responsibilities of the courts and the Public Prosecutors’ Office (Ministério Público) and the statutes and role of the respective judges, as well as the organization and responsibilities of nonjudicial conflict settlement bodies;

 

q. The status and role of local authorities, including the rules governing local finances;

r. Participation in local government by residents organizations;

 

s. Public associations, guarantees available to users of the public administration, and the public administration’s civil liability;

 

t. The basic elements of the rules governing, and the scope of, the public administration;

 

u. The basic general elements of the statutes of public companies and public foundations;

 

v. The definition of, and the rules governing, property in the public domain;

 

x. The rules governing means of production that are integrated into the cooperative and social sector of ownership;

 

z. The basic elements of town, country, and urban planning;

 

aa. The rules governing municipal police forces and the form in which they are created.[25]

 

Laws that grant authorization to the Government to legislate must define the object, purpose, extent, and duration of such authorization, which may be extended.[26] Authorizations lapse upon the resignation or removal of the Government to which they were granted, at the end of the legislature, or upon the dissolution of the Assembly of the Republic.[27] Authorizations granted to the Government by the budget law must comply with the provisions of article 165 of the Constitution and, when they address fiscal matters, only lapse at the end of the fiscal year to which they refer.[28]

 

6.  Internal Powers

 

The Assembly of the Republic is also responsible for (a) drafting its internal regulation under the terms of the Constitution; (b) electing its President and the remaining members of the Board by absolute majority of all the deputies in full exercise of their functions, with the four Vice-Presidents being elected upon proposals from the four largest parliamentary groups; and (c) forming the standing committee and the remaining committees.[29]

 

7.  Sessions

 

Each legislature lasts for four legislative sessions.[30]  In the event of the dissolution of the Assembly, the newly elected Assembly must commence a new legislature, the duration of which must be extended at the beginning by such time as is needed to complete the period that corresponds to the legislative session that was in progress on the date of the election.[31]

 

A legislative session lasts for one year, commencing on September 15.[32]  Without prejudice to suspensions decided by a two-thirds majority of all deputies present, the Assembly of the Republic’s normal parliamentary term is from September 15 to June 15.[33]  Following a plenary decision to extend the normal parliamentary term, on the initiative of the standing committee, or, in the event that the said committee is unable to function and there is a dire emergency, on the initiative of more than half of all the deputies, the Assembly may conduct proceedings outside the specified one-year term.[34]

 

The President of the Republic may also call the Assembly into session on an extraordinary basis in order to address specific matters.[35]  When the Assembly so decides, committees may conduct proceedings regardless of whether the Assembly is in plenary session.[36]

 

C.  Committees

 

Pursuant to article 178 of the Constitution, the Assembly of the Republic has the committees provided for in the Internal Regulation of the Assembly, and may form ad hoc committees of inquiry or for any other purpose.[37]

 

The Portuguese Parliament currently has twelve standing committees (comissões parlamentares),[38] which are specialized committees with permanent jurisdiction over specific matters and exist in principle in every legislature, and ad hoc committees that are established for a limited period of time in order to perform a specific function, culminating in the presentation of a descriptive report on the committee’s work, which must include the committee’s conclusions.[39]

 

Each committee may create subcommittees to look at specific matters that fall within the main committee’s overall areas of competence, although this does require prior authorization by the President of the Assembly of the Republic, who will first consult the Conference of Parliamentary Committee Chairmen. Once authorization has been received from the President of the Assembly, the subcommittee’s composition and scope are defined by the committee that created it, and at the end of its work, the subcommittee’s conclusions are also submitted to the parent committee.  In addition to subcommittees, committees may also create working groups for specific, temporary purposes. These may be of a legislative nature or created to follow up on certain matters.[40] 

 

Committees of inquiry (comissões de inquérito) are ad hoc committees bound by specific rules. Their mission is to oversee compliance with the Constitution and other laws, and to consider the acts of the Government and the administration. In addition to complying with the special rules on their formation, duration, and modus operandi, committees of inquiry enjoy the same investigative powers as the judicial authorities.[41]

 

In addition to the committees identified above, the Assembly also has a Permanent Standing Committee that remains in session outside of those periods in which the Assembly is in full session, during periods in which it is dissolved, and in the remaining cases provided for in the Constitution.[42]

 

The Permanent Standing Committee is chaired by the President of the Assembly and composed of the vice-presidents and deputies indicated by the political parties, each in proportion to the number of seats each party holds in the Assembly.[43] According to article 179(3) of the Constitution, the Permanent Standing Committee is responsible for

 

a. Overseeing compliance with the Constitution and the laws and monitoring the activities of the Government and the public administration;

 

b. Exercising the Assembly’s powers in relation to deputies’ mandates;

 

c. Taking steps to call the Assembly whenever necessary;

 

d. Preparing the opening of legislative sessions;

 

e. Consenting to the President of the Republic’s absence from the country;

 

f. Authorizing the President of the Republic to declare a state of siege or a state of emergency, to declare war or to make peace.[44]

 

In the case of declaration of a state of siege, state of emergency, war or declaration to make peace, the Permanent Standing Committee must take steps to call the Assembly as soon as possible.[45]

 


 

D.  Internal Regulation

 

The Constitution, the Internal Regulation of the Assembly,[46] and the Statute of the Deputies[47] establish the Assembly of the Republic’s competences and the rules governing the way it works, together with the rights and duties of its deputies. In doing so they ensure that there is both a separation of powers and various forms of interdependence in relation to the other entities that exercise sovereignty.[48]

 

III.  Elections

 

A.  General Principle

 

Pursuant to article 113(1) of the Constitution, as a general rule, officers of the bodies that exercise sovereign powers, of regional authorities, and of local authorities are appointed by direct, secret, and periodic suffrage.[49] Pursuant to the Constitution, electoral registration is semi-official (oficioso), compulsory, and permanent, and there must be a single registration system for all elections that are held by direct, universal suffrage, without prejudice to the provisions of articles 15(4), which deals with foreigners’ right to vote based on reciprocity; article 15(5), which deals with citizens of the European Union residing in Portugal and their right to vote and be voted on for membership in the European Parliament; and article 121(2), which regulates the right to vote of Portuguese citizens living abroad.[50]

 

Election campaigns are governed by the following principles:

 

a. Freedom to advertise;

 

b. Equal opportunities and treatment for all candidacies;

 

c. The impartiality of public bodies towards all candidacies;

 

d. The transparency and oversight of electoral accounts.[51]

 

Citizens have the duty to cooperate with the electoral authorities as determined by law.[52]  Votes cast must be converted into seats in accordance with the principle of proportional representation.[53]  Any act that dissolves a collegiate body that is based on direct suffrage must also set the date of a new election thereto. Such elections must be held within the following sixty days and in accordance with the electoral law that is in force at the time of the dissolution, under penalty of inexistence of the act dissolving the collegiate body.[54]  The electoral courts have jurisdiction to rule on the correctness and validity of electoral acts.[55]  The Electoral Law for the Assembly of the Republic regulates the elections for deputies of the Assembly of the Republic,[56] and the Electoral Law of the President of the Republic regulates the election of the President.[57]

 

B.  President of the Republic

 

The President of the Republic is elected by the universal, direct, secret suffrage of all Portuguese citizens who are registered to vote in Portuguese territory and also who reside abroad.[58]  The law regulates the right to vote of Portuguese citizens who reside abroad, which must consider the existence of ties that effectively link them to the Portuguese community.[59]  The right to vote in Portuguese territory must be exercised in person.

 

Registered Portuguese citizens by origin who are thirty-five years old are eligible to run for President of the Republic.[60]  Re-election to a third consecutive term of office, or during the five years immediately following the end of a second consecutive term of office, is not permitted.[61]  In the event of a resignation, the person cannot run for President in the next election or in any election that takes place in the five years immediately following the resignation.[62]

 

Nominations (candidaturas) for President of the Republic must be put forward by at least 7,500 and at most 1,500 registered voters.[63]  Nominations must be submitted to the Constitutional Court at least thirty days prior to the date set for the election.[64]  In the event of the death of any candidate, or of any other fact that renders any candidate incapable of performing the functions of President of the Republic, the election process must recommence under the terms defined by law.[65]

 

The President of the Republic must be elected during the sixty days prior to the end of his or her predecessor’s term of office, or during the sixty days after that office becomes vacant.[66]  Elections must not take place during the ninety days prior to or following the date of elections to the Assembly of the Republic.[67]  In this case, the election must take place during the ten days following the end of the period set out therein, and the term of office of the outgoing President must automatically be extended for the necessary period of time.[68]

 

The candidate who receives more than half of the validly cast votes must be elected President of the Republic. Blank ballot papers are not deemed validly cast.[69]  If none of the candidates obtains this number of votes, a second ballot must be held within twenty-one days of the date of the first one.[70]  Only the two candidates who received the most votes in the first ballot and have not withdrawn their candidacies stand in the second ballot.[71]

 

The President-elect takes office before the Assembly of the Republic.[72]  The installation takes place on the last day of the outgoing President’s term of office, or, in the case of election to a vacant office, on the eighth day following that on which the election results are published.[73]  Upon taking office, the elected President-elect must take the following oath:

 

I swear by my honor to faithfully perform the office with which I am invested and to defend, fulfill, and enforce the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.[74]

 

The term of office of President of the Republic is five years and ends upon installation of the newly elected President.[75]  In the event of a vacancy, the newly elected President of the Republic commences a new term of office.[76]


 

C.  Assembly of the Republic

 

Deputies for the Assembly of the Republic are elected for electoral areas, know as “circles,” that are geographically defined by law. The law may create multi-member and single-member circles and establish their nature and function, all in such a way as to ensure that votes are converted into seats in accordance with the proportional representation system and using ‘d’Hondt’s[77] highest-average rule.[78]  With the exception of the national circle, if one has been formed, the number of deputies for each plurinominal circle in Portuguese territory must be proportional to the number of citizens registered to vote therein.[79] 

 

Portuguese citizens who are registered to vote are also eligible to be voted on, subject to the restrictions imposed by electoral law.[80]

 

Nominations are submitted by political parties as established by law. Parties may submit such nominations individually or in coalition, and their lists of candidates may include citizens who are not registered members of any of the parties in question.[81]  A person cannot be a candidate for more than one electoral circle, with the exception of the national constituency, if one has been formed. No person may appear on more than one list of candidates.[82]

 

The law cannot limit the conversion of votes into seats by requiring a minimum national percentage of votes cast.[83]  Deputies must represent the whole country and not the electoral circles for which they are elected.[84]

 

Deputies’ terms of office commence upon the first session of the Assembly of the Republic following elections to the Assembly and end upon the first session following the subsequent elections to the Assembly, without prejudice to the suspension or termination of any individual mandate.[85]  Electoral law regulates the filling of vacancies that arise in the Assembly and, in cases in which there are important grounds for doing so, the temporary substitution of deputies.[86]

 

Article 19(1) of the Electoral Law for the Assembly of the Republic determines that the President of the Republic must schedule the date of the election of the deputies to the Assembly of the Republic at least sixty days in advance, or, in case of dissolution, at least fifty-five days in advance.[87] In the case of elections for a new legislature, the elections are held between September 14 and October 14 of the year corresponding to the term of the legislature.[88]

 

IV.  The Legislative Process

 

A.  Form of Acts

 

The acts provided for in article 161(a) (discussed above) take the form of constitutional laws.[89]  The acts provided for in articles 164 (a)–(f), (h), (j), the first part of (l), (q) and (t), and article 255 take the form of organizational laws (leis orgânicas).[90]  The acts provided for in article 161(b)–(h) take the form of laws.[91]  The acts provided for in article 163(d)(e) take the form of motions.[92] The remaining acts of the Assembly of the Republic take the form of resolutions, as well as those of the Permanent Standing Committee provided for in article 179(3)(e)(f).[93]  Resolutions must be published regardless of their enactment.[94]

 

B.  Initiative to Legislation and Referenda

 

The power to initiate legislation and referenda lies with deputies, parliamentary groups, and the Government, and also, subject to the terms and conditions established by law, with groups of registered electors. The power to initiate legislation in relation to the autonomous regions lies with the respective Legislative Assembly.[95]

 

No deputy, parliamentary group, Legislative Assembly of an autonomous region, or group of registered electors may submit bills or draft amendments that involve, during the current financial year, an increase in the state’s expenditure or a decrease in its revenues as set out in the budget.[96] The same limitation applies to draft referenda submitted by a deputy, parliamentary group, or group of registered electors.[97]

 

Bills and draft referenda that are definitively rejected may not be resubmitted in the same legislative session unless a new Assembly of the Republic is elected.[98]

 

Bills and draft referenda that are not put to the vote in the legislative session in which they are submitted are not required to be resubmitted in the following legislative sessions, unless the legislature itself comes to an end.[99]  Bills and draft referenda lapse upon the resignation or removal of the Government.[100]

 

Bills that are initiated by Legislative Assemblies of the autonomous regions lapse at the end of the respective legislature, save in the event that their general principles have already been passed, in which case they only lapse upon the end of the legislature of the Assembly of the Republic.[101]  Parliamentary committees may submit replacement texts, without prejudice to the bills and draft referenda to which they refer, unless they are withdrawn.[102]

 

C.  Debates and Voting

 

Debates on pending bills are comprised of a debate on the general principles and another on the details.[103]  Voting occurs on the general principles and on the details, followed by a final overall vote.[104]

 

In the event that the Assembly so decides, texts that are passed on the general principles must be put to vote on the details by the committees, without prejudice to the Assembly’s power to mandate the plenary to put the details to a vote, or to put the final overall vote to the plenary.[105]

 

The details of laws on the matters provided for in articles 164(a)–(f), (h), (n), (o), and 165(1)(q) of the Constitution must be put to a vote by the plenary.[106]

 

When put to the overall final vote, organizational laws require passage by an absolute majority of all the deputies in full exercise of their functions. The same majority is required for passage of the provisions concerning the regions’ territorial borders, as provided for in article 255 of the Constitution, which defines the creation of administrative regions.[107]

 


 

Passage of the following matters require a majority that is at least equal to two-thirds of all deputies present and greater than an absolute majority of all the deputies in full exercise of their functions:

 

a. The law governing the media regulatory body;

 

b. The rules governing the provisions of article 118(2);

 

c. The law that regulates the exercise of the right provided for in article 121(2);

 

d. The provisions of the laws that regulate the matters referred to in articles 148 and 149, and those concerning the system and method for electing the bodies provided for in article 239(3);

 

e. The provisions that regulate the subject matter of article 164(o);

 

f. Those provisions of the political and administrative statutes of the autonomous regions that set out the matters that are covered by the autonomous regions’ power to legislate.[108]

 

D.  Parliamentary Consideration of Legislation

 

Unless passed under the Government’s exclusive power to legislate upon a motion made by ten deputies within thirty days of their publication, excluding periods in which the Assembly of the Republic’s proceedings are suspended, decree-laws may be subject to consideration and possible amendment or abrogation by the Assembly.[109]

 

Once a motion to consider a decree-law issued under the terms of an authorization to legislate has been made, and if one or more amendments are proposed, the Assembly may suspend the force of all or part of the decree-law until either the law that amends it is published, or all the proposed amendments are rejected.[110]  Such suspensions expire after ten plenary sittings, if the Assembly has not made a decision by then.[111]

 

If the termination of the validity of the decree-law is approved, it must cease to exist from the day the resolution is published in the official gazette (Diário da República) and may not be republished during the same legislative session.[112]

 

In the event that a motion to consider has been made and the Assembly has not pronounced on the result of such consideration, or in the event that the Assembly has decided to make amendments, but has not put the respective law to the vote by the end of the then current legislative session, and on condition that at least fifteen plenary sessions have passed, the consideration process is deemed to have lapsed.[113]  Proceedings concerning the consideration of decree-laws enjoy priority under the terms of the internal regulation.[114]

 

E.  Emergency Proceedings

 

Upon the initiative of any deputy, parliamentary group, or the Government, the Assembly of the Republic may declare any bill or draft resolution to be the object of emergency proceedings.[115] Upon the initiative of the Legislative Assembly of the autonomous region in question, the Assembly may also declare any regional government bill to be the object of emergency proceedings.[116]

 

F.  Referenda 

 

Upon a decision made by the President of the Republic following a proposal from the Assembly of the Republic or the Government, citizens registered to vote in the national territory may be called upon to render a binding decision by means of a referendum on matters specified in the Constitution and law.[117]

 

Referenda may also be held on the initiative of citizens who submit a request to the Assembly of the Republic. Such requests must be submitted and considered under the terms and within the time limits established by law.[118]

 

The object of a referendum is limited to important issues concerning the national interest upon which the Assembly of the Republic or the Government must decide by passing an international agreement or legislative act.[119]

 

Article 115(4) of the Constitution determines that the following matters may not be subject to a referendum:

 

a. Alterations to the Constitution;

 

b. Issues and acts with budgetary, tax-related, or financial content;

 

c. The matters provided for in article 161, without prejudice to the provision of article 115(5) below;

 

d. The matters provided for in article 164, save the provisions of article 164(i).[120]

 

Article 115(5) of the Constitution establishes that the provision of article 115(4) above does not prevent the submission to a referendum of such important issues concerning the national interest that are the object of an international agreement pursuant to article 161(i) of the Constitution, except when they concern peace or the rectification of borders.[121] 

 

Each referendum must only address one matter. Questions must be objectively, clearly, and precisely formulated; require yes or no answers; and not exceed the maximum number established by law. The law must also establish the other terms governing the formulation and holding of referenda.[122]

 

Referenda may not be called or held between the dates on which elections for the bodies that exercise sovereign power, self-governing bodies of the autonomous regions, local authorities, and deputies of the European Parliament are called and held.[123]

 

The President of the Republic must submit all draft referenda submitted to him or her by the Assembly of the Republic or the Government to compulsory prior determination of their constitutionality and legality.[124] The provisions of article 113(1)–(4), and (7) of the Constitution, which deal with general principles of electoral law, apply to referenda with the appropriate adaptations.[125]

 

Draft referenda that are refused by the President of the Republic or that are rejected by the electorate may not be resubmitted during the same legislative session, except upon new elections to the Assembly of the Republic or when the Government resigns or is removed.[126]

 

A referendum is only binding in the event that the number of citizens who voted exceeds half the number of registered voters.[127]

 

Citizens who reside abroad and are properly registered to vote under the provisions of article 121(2) of the Constitution must be called upon to take part in referenda that address matters that specifically concern them.[128]  Referenda may be regional in scope, in accordance with article 232(2) of the Constitution.[129]

 


 

G.  Enactment and Veto

 

Within twenty days from the receipt of any decree of the Assembly of the Republic for enactment as a law, or of the publication of the decision in which the Constitutional Court refrains from pronouncing the unconstitutionality of any norm contained therein, the President of the Republic must either enact the decree or exercise the right of veto and send a message setting out the grounds for doing so and requesting that the legislative act be reconsidered.[130]

 

If the Assembly of the Republic confirms its vote by an absolute majority of all the deputies in full exercise of their functions, the President of the Republic must enact the legislative act within a time limit of eight days counting from its receipt.[131]  However, a majority that is at least equal to two-thirds of all deputies present and greater than an absolute majority of all deputies in the full exercise of their functions is required to confirm decrees that take the form of organic laws, as well as to confirm those concerning the following matters:

 

a) External relations;

 

b) Boundaries between the public, private and cooperative sectors of ownership of the means of production;

 

c) Any regulation of the electoral acts provided for in the Constitution that does not take the form of an organic law.[132]

 

Within forty days of the receipt of any Government decree for enactment, or of the publication of the decision in which the Constitutional Court refrains from pronouncing the unconstitutionality of any norm contained therein, the President of the Republic must either enact the decree or exercise his right of veto and inform the Government in writing of the reasons for doing so.[133]

 

The President of the Republic must also exercise the right of veto pursuant to article 278, which deals with prior review of constitutionality, and article 279, which deals with the effects of Constitutional Court’s decisions, of the Constitution.[134]

Prepared by Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
February 2018


[1] Constituição da República Portuguesa, VII Revisão Constitucional (2005), art. 1, http://www.parlamento.pt/ Legislacao/Paginas/ConstituicaoRepublicaPortuguesa.aspx, archived athttps://perma.cc/A85X-YULZ.

[2] Id. art. 2.

[3] Id. art. 108.

[4] Id. art. 109.

[5] Id. art. 110(1).

[6] Id. art. 110(2).

[7] Id. art. 111(1).

[8] Id. art. 111(2).

[9] Id. art. 120.

[10] Id. art. 147.

[11] Id. art. 182.

[12] Id. art. 183(1).

[13] Id. art. 183(2).

[14] Id. art. 183(3).

[15] Id. art. 187(1).

[16] Id. art. 187(2).

[17] Id. art. 202(1).

[18] Id. art. 202(2).

[19] Id. art. 148.

[20] Id. art. 156 (all translations by author).

[21] Id. art. 161.

[22] Id. art. 162.

[23] Id. art. 163.

[24] Id. art. 164.

[25] Id. art. 165(1).

[26] Id. art. 165(2).

[27] Id. art. 165(4).

[28] Id. art. 165(5).

[29] Id. art. 175.

[30] Id. art. 171(1). 

[31] Id. art. 171(2). 

[32] Id. art. 174(1). 

[33] Id. art. 174(2). 

[34] Id. art. 174(3). 

[35] Id. art. 174(4). 

[36] Id. art. 174(5). 

[37] Id. art. 178(1).  Article 178 of the Constitution further defines the composition and functioning of the committees. 

[38] Article 179 of the Constitution regulates standing committees.

[39] Comissões Parlamentares, Assembleia da República, http://www.parlamento.pt/ComissoesAR/Paginas/ default.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/XJC4-LYQ6.

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Constituição da República Portuguesa art. 179(1).

[43] Id. art. 179(2).

[44] Id. art. 179(3).

[45] Id. art. 179(4).

[46] Regimento da Assembleia da República No. 1/2007, de 20 de Agosto (2017), http://www.parlamento.pt/ Legislacao/Documents/Legislacao_Anotada/RegimentoAR_Simples.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/MX3D-VDAC.

[48] Parlamento, Assembleia da República, http://www.parlamento.pt/Parlamento/Paginas/default.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/GG3K-92JL.  

[49] Constituição da República Portuguesa art. 113(1). 

[50] Id. art. 113(2). 

[51] Id. art. 113(3). 

[52] Id. art. 113(4). 

[53] Id. art. 113(5). 

[54] Id. art. 113(6). 

[55] Id. art. 113(7). 

[56] Lei Eleitoral para a Assembleia da República, Lei No. 14/79, de 16 de Maio (2015), http://www.parlamento.pt/ legislacao/documents/legislacao_anotada/leieleitoralar_anotada.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/5YR8-DXJP.  

[57] Lei Eleitoral do Presidente da República, Decreto-Lei No. 319-A/76, de 3 de Maio (2015), http://www.cne.pt/ sites/default/files/dl/legis_lepr_2015vf.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/RYB4-T4NY

[58] Constituição da República Portuguesa art. 121(1). 

[59] Id. art. 121(2). 

[60] Id. art. 122. 

[61] Id. art. 123(1). 

[62] Id. art. 123(2). 

[63] Id. art. 124(1). 

[64] Id. art. 124(2). 

[65] Id. art. 124(3). 

[66] Id. art. 125(1). 

[67] Id. art. 125(2). 

[68] Id. art. 125(3). 

[69] Id. art. 126(1). 

[70] Id. art. 126(2). 

[71] Id. art. 126(3). 

[72] Id. art. 127(1). 

[73] Id. art. 127(2). 

[74] Id. art. 127(3). 

[75] Id. art. 128(1). 

[76] Id. art. 128(2). 

[77] “The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The ‘d’Hondt method’ is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems . . . .”  Understanding the d’Hondt Method: Allocation of Parliamentary Seats and Leadership Positions, European Parliament Think Tank, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document. html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2016)580901 (last visited Jan. 24, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/AWK5-VVZZ.

[78] Constituição da República Portuguesa art. 149(1).

[79] Id. art. 149(2).

[80] Id. art. 150.

[81] Id. art. 151(1).

[82] Id. art. 151(2).

[83] Id. art. 152(1).

[84] Id. art. 152(2).

[85] Id. art. 153(1).

[86] Id. art. 153(2).

[87] Lei Eleitoral para a Assembleia da República art. 19(1).

[88] Id. art. 19(2).

[89] Constituição da República Portuguesa art. 166(1).

[90] Id. art. 166(2).

[91] Id. art. 166(3).

[92] Id. art. 166(4).

[93] Id. art. 166(5).

[94] Id. art. 166(6).

[95] Id. art. 167(1).

[96] Id. art. 167(2).

[97] Id. art. 167(3).

[98] Id. art. 167(4).

[99] Id. art. 167(5).

[100] Id. art. 167(6).

[101] Id. art. 167(7).

[102] Id. art. 167(8).

[103] Id. art. 168(1).

[104] Id. art. 168(2).

[105] Id. art. 168(3).

[106] Id. art. 168(4).

[107] Id. art. 168(5).

[108] Id. art. 168(6).

[109] Id. art. 169(1).

[110] Id. art. 169(2).

[111] Id. art. 169(3).

[112] Id. art. 169(4).

[113] Id. art. 169(5).

[114] Id. art. 169(6).

[115] Id. art. 170(1).

[116] Id. art. 170(2).

[117] Id. art. 115(1).

[118] Id. art. 115(2).

[119] Id. art. 115(3).

[120] Id. art. 115(4).

[121] Id. art. 115(5).

[122] Id. art. 115(6).

[123] Id. art. 115(7).

[124] Id. art. 115(8).

[125] Id. art. 115(9).

[126] Id. art. 115(10).

[127] Id. art. 115(11).

[128] Id. art. 115(12).

[129] Id. art. 115(13).

[130] Id. art. 136(1).

[131] Id. art. 136(2).

[132] Id. art. 136(3).

[133] Id. art. 136(4).

[134] Id. art. 136(5).

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Last Updated: 08/06/2019