Living in Portugal 2019

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Political, administrative and legal system

Portugal is a parliamentary republic with a president elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term of office. The Government is formed by the Conselho de Ministros [Council of Ministers/Cabinet], headed by the Prime Minister, who is politically accountable to the President and Parliament. Legislative power is exercised by Parliament, composed of a chamber of deputies with 230 seats. Members of Parliament are elected by proportional representation for four years. The political parties currently represented in Parliament are: the PS (Socialist Party), the PSD (Social Democrat Party), the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party), the CDS-PP (Social Democratic Centre - People's Party), the BE (Left Alliance) and the PEV (the ‘Green’ Ecology Party).


Portugal's 22 electoral districts

18 in Continental Portugal, 1 in Madeira and 3 in the Azores.

Each district has a Government-appointed Civil Governor. The Azores and Madeira are Autonomous Regions with directly elected Regional Parliaments with legislative power which appoint Regional Governments with substantial executive powers.


Portuguese Legal System

The Portuguese legal system is comparable to the German and French systems, for example, but not to the Anglo-American system. The principal source of law is the Constitution. There are three levels of courts in Portugal: district courts or courts of first instance, appeal courts or courts of second instance and the Supreme Court. Each district has a court of first instance. In some cases the appeal courts may also act as courts of first instance. The Supreme Court in Lisbon has one presiding judge and 22 judges. Any lawyer is allowed to act in any court. He or she has the title of Advogado [lawyer].


Portuguese law applies in Portugal

The police may arrest someone:

If there is reasonable suspicion that he is about to commit a criminal offence; to prevent future criminal action; or to remove him from the presence of other people. Suspects detained must be brought before a judge within 48 hours.

All nationals of over 17 years of age must register with the Junta de Freguesia [parish council] (small administrative unit) in the area where they live, in order to obtain an Electoral Card which allows them to vote in the next elections. Registration becomes permanent at 18 years of age. Such registration is voluntary for European citizens who live in Portugal, and allows them to vote in local authority elections and elections to the European Parliament.


August 2010 European Union: © 1995-2010   Reproduction authorised


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Living in Portugal