2011 Portuguese legislative election

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2011 Portuguese legislative election

← 2009 5 June 2011 2015 →

All 230 seats in the Portuguese Assembly
116 seats needed for a majority
Registered9,624,354 Increase1.1%
Turnout5,585,054 (58.0%)
Decrease1.7 pp
  First party Second party Third party
  Pedro Passos Coelho 2011 (cropped).jpg José Sócrates 2006b (cropped).jpg Paulo Portas 2009 (cropped).jpg
Leader Pedro Passos Coelho José Sócrates Paulo Portas
Leader since 26 March 2010 29 September 2004 21 April 2007
Leader's seat Vila Real[2] Castelo Branco[3] Aveiro[1]
Last election 81 seats, 29.1% 97 seats, 36.6% 21 seats, 10.4%
Seats won 108 74 24
Seat change Increase 27 Decrease 23 Increase 3
Popular vote 2,159,181 1,566,347 653,888
Percentage 38.7% 28.0% 11.7%
Swing Increase 9.6 pp Decrease 8.6 pp Increase 1.3 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party
  Jerónimo de Sousa 2007b (cropped).jpg Francisco Louçã 2009 (cropped).jpg
Leader Jerónimo de Sousa Francisco Louçã
Party PCP BE
Alliance CDU
Leader since 27 November 2004 24 March 1999
Leader's seat Lisbon[4] Lisbon[5]
Last election 15 seats, 7.9% 16 seats, 9.8%
Seats won 16 8
Seat change Increase 1 Decrease 8
Popular vote 441,147 288,923
Percentage 7.9% 5.2%
Swing Steady 0.0 pp Decrease 4.6 pp

2011 Portuguese legislative election - Results.svg

Prime Minister before election

José Sócrates

Prime Minister-designate

Pedro Passos Coelho

Coat of arms of Portugal
This article is part of a series on the
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A legislative election was held in Portugal on 5 June 2011 to elect all 230 members of the Assembly of the Republic.[6] Pedro Passos Coelho led the centre-right Social Democratic Party to victory over the Socialist Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister José Sócrates.[7] Despite a historically low turnout of less than 60% of registered voters, the right-wing won a clear mandate, winning nearly 130 MPs, more than 56% of the seats, and just over 50% of the vote. While the People's Party, continuing the trend they began in 2009, earned their best score since 1983, the Social Democrats exceeded the expected result in the opinion polls and won the same number of seats as they did in 2002, when the PSD was led by José Manuel Durão Barroso. Of the twenty districts of the country, Pedro Passos Coelho's party won seventeen, including Lisbon, Porto, Faro and the Azores, which has been governed by the Socialists since 1996.

The defeat of the PS was severe, as they lost in eleven districts and fell below 30% of the votes cast, a first since the election of 1991. This heavy defeat led José Sócrates to resign as General Secretary of the party on election night. However, it was not the Socialists' worst result, which dated back to 1987 when they polled 30 points behind the Social Democrats. The Socialists were also beaten in José Sócrates district, Castelo Branco, that he dominated since 1995.

For the left-wing parties, the result was mixed. On one hand, the Left Bloc faced a huge setback, losing half of its MPs and regaining its 2005 numbers, where they obtained however, one more percentage point in a context of greater participation. As a whole, the Portuguese left-wing parties trails by ten points in support to the right-wing parties, the biggest lead since the absolute majority of the Social Democrat Aníbal Cavaco Silva in the 1990s.

Voter turnout was one of the lowest in Portuguese election history, with just 58% of the electorate casting their ballot on election day.


The previous parliamentary elections were held in September 2009, and, as such, technically no elections were due until September or October 2013. However, the 2009 elections resulted in a hung parliament, as the Socialist Party (PS) continued to be the most voted force but lost the majority it previously had in the chamber. A minority government supported by the PS and headed by José Sócrates was formed, relying on negotiations with the opposition parties (namely the major opposition party PSD) to approve the most important and/or controversial bills, such as the State Budgets for 2010 and 2011.

In March 2011, when the government had tried to introduce a Stability and Growth Pact without consultation with the president and the parliament, the opposition parties called for a resolution vote.[8] The vote came over proposed spending cuts and tax hikes that had been demanded by the EU to offer a bailout over Portugal's debt levels amidst the European sovereign debt crisis. PM Jose Socrates had previously said that if the measure failed he would not be able to govern anymore.[8] All five opposition parties combined to vote down the measure. With all other parties voting against the government, the Socialist Party was unable to avoid defeat as it only had 97 MPs in the 230-seat parliament. Following the vote in parliament on the evening of 23 March, Socrates stepped down, reiterating that he could no longer govern the country:[7] "Today every opposition party rejected the measures proposed by the government to prevent that Portugal resort to external aid. The opposition removed from the government the conditions to govern. As a result I have tendered my resignation to the president." The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), tipped the scales against the government by voting against the package, despite having abstained when voting previous austerity measures, thus allowing them to pass.[9]

Following the vote, European markets read the move as making a possible 50–70 billion euro[10] bailout "inevitable" the day before a European Union summit concerning the debt crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Socrates for his "far-reaching" austerity bill in parliament. Portuguese two-year bond yields also increased to the most since 1999 on speculation of possible further credit downgrades.[11][12][13]

President Anibal Cavaco Silva then met with the various political parties to either resolve the crisis, or dissolve the parliament and call an early election, which, according to the Portuguese Constitution, can be held no sooner than 55 days after the announcement.[14][15] On 1 April, the president set 5 June as the date for an early election, deeming it the only way to create conditions for a new government.[16]

Following the call for an election, Socrates finally did make a request to the EU for a bailout on 6 April as the country's sovereign bond yield hit a record high; Portugal became the third EU state after Greece and Ireland, respectively, to request an EU bailout. Socrates said that "I tried everything but we came to a moment that not taking this decision would bring risks we can’t afford. The Social Democrats' Pedro Passos Coelho said that his party would support the aid request; the International Monetary Fund also added that it was ready to support assistance that Portugal requested.[17] Socrates said in a nationwide television address that his caretaker government had formally requested a bailout as it was "inevitable" and that "I tried everything, but in conscience we have reached a moment when not taking this decision would imply risks that the country should not take." His Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos also said that Portugal would need the European Union support to avoid defaulting on its debt. In response, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said the action was "a responsible move" and that the specific amount of aid money would soon be determined.[18] European Union officials suggested that they hoped a deal would be finalised by the middle of May with an expected bailout of around 80 billion euros.[19]

Electoral system[edit]

The Parliament of the Portuguese Republic consists of a single chamber, the Assembly of the Republic, composed of 230 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a maximum term of four years. Assembly members represent the entire country, rather than the constituencies in which they were elected. Governments require majority support in the Assembly in order to remain in office.

Each one of Portugal's eighteen administrative districts, as well as each one of the country's two autonomous regions - the Azores and Madeira - is an electoral constituency. Portuguese voters residing outside the national territory are grouped into two electoral constituencies - Europe and the rest of the world - each one of which elects two Assembly members. The remaining 226 seats are allocated among the national territory constituencies in proportion to their number of registered electors.

Political parties and party coalitions may present lists of candidates. The lists are closed, so electors may not choose individual candidates in or alter the order of such lists. Electors cast a ballot for a single list. The seats in each constituency are divided among parties according to the largest average method of proportional representation (PR), conceived by the Belgian mathematician Victor d'Hondt in 1899. Although there is no statutory threshold for participation in the allocation of Assembly seats, there is an effective threshold at the constituency level that depends on the district magnitude.[20] The use of the d'Hondt method makes for a higher effective threshold than certain other allocation method such as the Hare quota or Sainte-Laguë method, which are more generous to small parties.[21]


The parties that partook in the election, and their leaders, were:

Pedro Passos Coelho, leader of the Social Democratic Party, was designated Prime Minister and formed a coalition government with the People's Party.

Concurrent issues[edit]

Popular anger arose during the electoral process leading to mass protests in multiple cities around the country.

External influence[edit]

Licor Beirão's advertisement featuring Angela Merkel

EU bailout[edit]

In what was read as external interference during the campaign the EU's Olli Rehn said Portugal must make even stronger budget cuts than the measures that failed in parliament leading to the fall of the government. EU Finance Ministers said that about 80 billion euros could be available by mid-May should the austerity measures it demanded pass. Rehn said that the measures would be "a starting point. It is indeed essential in Portugal to reach a cross-party agreement ensuring that such a programme can be adopted [by] May."[22]

On 16 May, the EU endorsed a 78-billion euro joint package with the IMF.[23]

Finnish influence

Facing an election of his own, Finnish Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen said that Portugal's deficit-reduction steps must be even stronger than what was proposed in parliament prior to the election call. "The package must be really strict because otherwise it doesn't make any sense. The package must be harder and more comprehensive than the one the parliament voted against."[24] The surge in popularity of the True Finns prior to the election could threaten a bailout for Portugal.[25] Finland’s support for the bailout was important because it would need unanimous support to pass.[26]

Following a dramatic showing, stronger than opinion polls predicted, by the True Finns, and amid government formation talks, a bailout for Portugal was thrown into doubt.[27] This was despite Katainen's pro-bailout National Coalition Party winning more seats than any other party (44 out of 200).

Economic outlook[edit]

On 5 April, Moody's cut Portugal's debt grade for the second in weeks citing its reason for doing so as "driven primarily by increased political, budgetary and economic uncertainty, which increase the risk that the government will be unable to achieve [its] ambitious deficit reduction targets." Its debt rating was decreased from A3 to Baa1, which was three grades above junk bond status.[28]

IMF bailout[edit]

On 20 May, the IMF approved a €26 billion bailout for Portugal as part of joint support mechanisms with the EU. Of the total €6.1 billion would be made available immediately.[23]

Opinion polling[edit]


Anti-incumbency led to the defeat of the ruling party, even more than polls predicted. Pedro Passos Coelho of the Social Democratic Party is the Prime Minister-designate.

e • d Summary of the 5 June 2011 Assembly of the Republic election results
Parliament 2011-2015.png
Parties Votes % ±pp swing MPs MPs %/
votes %
2009 2011 ± % ±
Social Democratic 2,159,181 38.66 Increase9.6 81 108 Increase27 46.96 Increase11.7 1.21
Socialist 1,566,347 28.05 Decrease8.5 97 74 Decrease23 32.17 Decrease10.0 1.15
People's 653,888 11.71 Increase1.3 21 24 Increase3 10.43 Increase1.3 0.89
Unitary Democratic Coalition[A] 441,147 7.90 Increase0.0 15 16 Increase1 6.96 Increase0.4 0.88
Left Bloc 288,923 5.17 Decrease4.6 16 8 Decrease8 3.48 Decrease3.5 0.67
Portuguese Workers' Communist 62,610 1.12 Increase0.2 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Party for Animals and Nature 57,995 1.04 N/A N/A 0 N/A 0.00 N/A 0.0
Earth 22,705 0.41 Increase0.3 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Hope for Portugal Movement 21,942 0.39 Decrease0.1 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
National Renovator 17,548 0.31 Increase0.1 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Labour 16,895 0.30 Increase0.2 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
People's Monarchist 14,687 0.26 Decrease0.0 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
New Democracy 11,806 0.21 Decrease0.2 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Portugal Pro-Life 8,209 0.15 Steady0.0 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Workers Party of Socialist Unity 4,572 0.08 Steady0.0 0 0 Steady0 0.00 Steady0.0 0.0
Democratic Party of the Atlantic 4,569 0.08 N/A N/A 0 N/A 0.00 N/A 0.0
Humanist 3,588 0.06 N/A N/A 0 N/A 0.00 N/A 0.0
Total valid 5,357,037 95.92 Decrease1.0 230 230 Steady0 100.00 Steady0.0
Blank ballots 148,618 2.66 Increase0.9
Invalid ballots 79,399 1.42 Increase0.1
Total (turnout 58.03%) 5,585,054 100.00 Decrease1.7
A Portuguese Communist Party (14 MPs) and "The Greens" (2 MPs) ran in coalition.[29]
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições
Vote share
Parliamentary seats

Distribution by constituency[edit]

e • d Results of the 2011 election of the Portuguese Assembly of the Republic
by constituency
Constituency % S % S % S % S % S Total
Azores 47.2 3 25.7 2 12.1 - 2.5 - 4.4 - 5
Aveiro 44.5 8 25.9 5 12.9 2 4.1 - 5.0 1 16
Beja 23.7 1 29.8 1 7.3 - 25.4 1 5.2 - 3
Braga 40.1 9 32.9 7 10.4 2 4.9 1 4.2 - 19
Bragança 52.1 2 26.1 1 11.1 - 2.6 - 2.3 - 3
Castelo Branco 37.9 2 34.8 2 9.6 - 4.9 - 4.2 - 4
Coimbra 40.1 5 29.2 3 9.9 1 6.2 - 5.8 - 9
EvoraÉvora 27.6 1 29.0 1 8.7 - 22.0 1 4.9 - 3
Faro 37.0 4 23.0 2 12.7 1 8.6 1 8.2 1 9
Guarda 46.3 3 28.3 1 11.2 - 3.6 - 3.4 - 4
Leiria 47.0 6 20.7 3 12.8 1 5.0 - 5.4 - 10
Lisbon 34.1 18 27.5 14 13.8 7 9.6 5 5.7 3 47
Madeira 49.4 4 14.7 1 13.7 1 3.7 - 4.0 - 6
Portalegre 32.5 1 32.4 1 10.2 - 12.8 - 4.5 - 2
Porto 39.2 17 32.0 14 10.0 4 6.2 2 5.1 2 39
Santarém 37.6 5 25.9 3 12.3 1 9.0 1 5.8 - 10
Setúbal 25.2 5 26.9 5 12.1 2 19.6 4 7.1 1 17
Viana do Castelo 43.6 3 26.2 2 13.4 1 4.9 - 4.4 - 6
Vila Real 51.4 3 29.1 2 8.7 - 3.1 - 2.3 - 5
Viseu 48.4 5 26.7 3 12.4 1 2.9 - 2.9 - 9
zEurope 29.2 1 39.6 1 5.5 - 4.4 - 3.3 - 2
zRest of the World 55.1 2 18.0 - 4.1 - 0.8 - 1.1 - 2
Total 38.7 108 28.1 74 11.7 24 7.9 16 5.2 8 230
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições


Government formation[edit]

The XIX Constitutional Government of Portugal was formed with the legislative majority of the PSD and CDS-PP. On 6 June, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva called on Pedro Passos Coelho to form a government with "majority support in parliament" and asked for urgency in its formation[30] to "develop immediate measures to propose a governance solution which has a parliamentary majority of support available and consistent."

Given the election result and the impossibility of forming a majority government with parliamentary support from a single party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) led by Pedro Passos Coelho established an agreement for a majority government,[31] signed on 16 June 2011, with the People's Party, led by Paulo Portas, after a few days of trading.

The XIX Constitutional Government took office on 21 June 2011.[32]

2013 political crisis[edit]

On 3 July 2013, Secretary of State for Treasury Maria Luis Albuquerque replaced Vitor Gaspar as the Minister of Finance. As a result, CDS leader Paulo Portas quit citing that the move would offer "mere continuity" as part of the austerity measures for the deficit-cutting plans. In saying that he would not resign, Coelho added: "I will try to clarify and guarantee with the CDS party all the conditions for the stability of the government and to proceed with the strategy of overcoming the nation’s crisis." He added that "you know that this government has a tight-knit majority in the house to support it" and that the text of the resolution indicated that it was "fundamental to change the troika memorandum by renegotiation to finds a way to pay that does not contradict the country’s economic growth."[33]

In the fifth vote of confidence the government faced, as called by Os Verdes, the government was scheduled to win a vote despite being opposed by the Communists, Left Bloc and Socialists (if it failed the government would not be able to have another vote). Despite attempts to form a national unity government, Socialist party whip Carlos Zorrinho said that the move was not with the government but that all parties were available for a possible new government. The motion by Os Verdes was initiated on 14 July 2013 during a state of the nation debate. Coelho said that the vote was "very welcome" and would serve as a vote of confidence.[34]


  1. ^ Assembleia da República - Deputados e Grupos Parlamentares
  2. ^ Assembleia da República - Deputados e Grupos Parlamentares
  3. ^ Assembleia da República - Deputados e Grupos Parlamentares
  4. ^ Assembleia da República - Deputados e Grupos Parlamentares
  5. ^ Assembleia da República - Deputados e Grupos Parlamentares
  6. ^ Taylor, Simon. "Portugal to hold election on 5 June". Europeanvoice.com. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Portugal PM quits after losing austerity vote", Al Jazeera, 23 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b Fontevecchia, Agustino (23 March 2011). "Portuguese Parliament Rejects Austerity Plan, PM Socrates Resigns". Forbes. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Portugal PM quits after losing austerity vote - Europe". Al Jazeera English. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  10. ^ Neuger, James; Lima, Joao; "Portugal Is Said to Require as Much as $99 Billion in Any European Bailout", Bloomberg, 25 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011
  11. ^ Lima, Joao; Reis, Anabela; "Portugal Pushed Closer to EU Bailout After Socrates Budget Cuts Defeated", Bloomberg, 24 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  12. ^ Kansas, Dave; "Portugal’s Government Falls on Budget Dispute, Stocks Rise", Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2011, accessed 24 March 2011.
  13. ^ Campos, Rodrigo; "GLOBAL MARKETS-World shares jump; euro up on Portugal optimism", Reuters, 24 March 2011. Accessed 24 March 2011.
  14. ^ Tremlett, Giles; "Portugal in crisis after prime minister resigns over austerity measures", The Guardian, 23 March 2011. Accessed 24 March 2011.
  15. ^ Lewis, Jeffrey T.; MacDonald, Alex; Kowsmann, Patricia; "Portuguese Leaders Scramble to Avoid Bailout", WSJ, 25 March 2011. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  16. ^ Kowsmann, Patricia; MacDonald, Alex; "Portugal Sets Vote as Crisis Deepens", WSJ, 1 April 2011. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  17. ^ Lima, Joao (7 April 2011). "Portugal Set to Start Talks on $107 Billion Bailout as Spain Threat Eases". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Portugal asks EU for bailout - Europe". Al Jazeera English. 6 April 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Finnish election results may spark euro jitters". MarketWatch. 17 April 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Effective threshold in electoral systems". Trinity College, Dublin. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  21. ^ Gallaher, Michael (1992). "Comparing Proportional Representation Electoral Systems: Quotas, Thresholds, Paradoxes and Majorities"
  22. ^ Neuger, James G. (9 April 2011). "Portugal Told to Make Deeper Deficit Cuts to Gain $116 Billion EU Bailout". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  23. ^ a b Rastello, Sandrine (20 May 2011). "IMF Board Approves $36.8 Billion Loan to Portugal". Bloomberg.
  24. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20110427092652/http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=%2Fg%2Fa%2F2011%2F04%2F08%2Fbloomberg1376-LJBOD60UQVI901-4F9H2OT20HBBKSVHCTJIRENL72.DTL#ixzz1JVBp9uBt. Archived from the original on 27 April 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ Moen, Arild (14 April 2011). "'True Finns' Threaten EU Bailout Plans - The Source - WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  26. ^ The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/finnish-nationalists-challenge-eu-bailouts-in-election-that-has-europe-on-edge/2011/04/15/AFdz4piD_story.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  27. ^ Marlene Y. Satter (20 April 2011). "New Finland Government Threatens Portugal Bailout". Advisor One. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  28. ^ "Credit agency raises pressure on Portugal - Business". Al Jazeera English. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  29. ^ Electoral results - Assembly of the Republic
  30. ^ "Cavaco dá luz verde para Passos formar Governo". Público. 6 June 2011. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  31. ^ "Acordo PSD/CDS inclui consulta mútua nas autárquicas de 2013". Expresso. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  32. ^ "Governo de Passos Coelho já tomou posse" (in Portuguese). Público. 21 June 2011. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  33. ^ Reis, Anabela; Lima, Joao (3 July 2013). "Portugal's Coalition Splinters on Austerity Fatigue". Bloomberg.
  34. ^ http://theportugalnews.com/news/govt-faces-yet-another-no-confidence-vote/28896

External links[edit]

See also[edit]