AuthorLopes, Dulce; Vicente, Joana
The national legal system
According to Article 1 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic of 1976, ‘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.’ That means that the human
being is the first priority of the state, above the economic and political organisation of the
According to Article 2 of the Constitution,
‘The Portuguese Republic is a democratic state based on the rule of law, the
sovereignty of the people, plural democratic expression and political organisation,
respect for and the guarantee of the effective implementation of the fundamental
rights and freedoms, and the separation and interdependence of powers, with a view
to achieving economic, social and cultural democracy and deepening participatory
The structure of the state is unitary with autonomous regions (Article 6(2)) and must
respect the autonomous island system of self-government, the principles of subsidiarity,
the autonomy of local authorities and the democratic decentralisation of the public
administration (Article 6(1)).
The political system is founded on the separation of effective powers (positive and
negative) between the President, Parliament and Government, all of which possess
identical democratic legitimacy.
The President of the Republic exercises effective positive and negative political powers,
such as the appointment of the prime minister, the right of veto, the removal of the
Government and the dissolution of the Assembly.
The Assembly of the Republic (Parliament) exercises legislative and political control powers
(Article 149(1) of the Constitution). Among the legislative powers, the Assembly of the
Republic has powers:
- to amend the Constitution (Article 161(a) of the Constitution);
- to enact legislation on any subject other than those in the exclusive mandate of the
Government under the Constitution (Article 161(c) of the Constitution);
- to delegate to the Government the power to legislate (Article 161(d) of the
- to approve international conventions (Article 161(i) of the Constitution); and
- to propose to the President of the Republic that referenda be held in cases in which
they are warranted by national interest (Article 161(j) of the Constitution).
The Assembly of the Republic has exclusive legislative powers on some matters, and
partially exclusive legislative powers on others. For instance, it has exclusive legislative
powers with regard to rights, freedoms and guarantees, except where legislative power is
delegated to the Government.
The Government conducts the country’s general policy and is the supreme authority in the
public administration (Article 182 of the Constitution). It also enjoys legislative powers on
matters that are not within the exclusive mandate of the Assembly of the Republic, and on
matters that are within the exclusive power of the Assembly but which the Assembly
delegates to it.

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