Aníbal Cavaco Silva

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Aníbal Cavaco Silva
A. Cavaco Silva (cropped).png
President of Portugal
In office
9 March 2006 – 9 March 2016
Prime MinisterJosé Sócrates
Pedro Passos Coelho
António Costa
Preceded byJorge Sampaio
Succeeded byMarcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Prime Minister of Portugal
In office
6 November 1985 – 28 October 1995
PresidentAntónio Ramalho Eanes
Mário Soares
Vice PMEurico de Melo
DeputyFernando Nogueira
António Couto dos Santos
Luís Marques Mendes
Preceded byMário Soares
Succeeded byAntónio Guterres
President of the Social Democratic Party
In office
17 May 1985 – 17 February 1995
Preceded byCarlos Mota Pinto
Succeeded byFernando Nogueira
Minister of Finance and Planning
In office
3 January 1980 – 9 January 1981
Prime MinisterFrancisco Sá Carneiro
Preceded byAntónio de Sousa Franco (Finance)
Carlos Corrêa Gago (Planning)
Succeeded byJoão Morais Leitão
Personal details
Aníbal António Cavaco Silva

(1939-07-15) 15 July 1939 (age 82)
Boliqueime, Portugal
Political partySocial Democratic Party
(m. 1963)
Alma materTechnical University of Lisbon
University of York
WebsiteOfficial website

Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, GCC, GColL (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈniβɐɫ ɐ̃ˈtɔni.u kɐˈvaku ˈsiɫvɐ]; born 15 July 1939) is a Portuguese economist who served as the 19th President of Portugal, in office from 9 March 2006 to 9 March 2016. He had been previously Prime Minister of Portugal from 6 November 1985 to 28 October 1995. His 10-year tenure was the longest of any prime minister since António de Oliveira Salazar, and he was the first Portuguese prime minister to win an absolute parliamentary majority under the current constitutional system. He is best known for leading Portugal into the European Union.

Early life and career[edit]

Aníbal António Cavaco Silva was born in Boliqueime, Loulé, Algarve.

Cavaco Silva was initially an undistinguished student. As a 13-year-old, he flunked at the 3rd grade of the Commercial School, and his grandfather put him working on the farm as a punishment.[1] After returning to school, Cavaco Silva went on to become an accomplished student. Cavaco Silva then went to Lisbon, where he took a vocational education course in accounting from "Instituto Comercial de Lisboa" (Instituto Superior de Contabilidade e Administração de Lisboa (ISCAL), today) in 1959. In parallel, he was admitted for university education at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Económicas e Financeiras de Lisboa (ISCEF) of the Technical University of Lisbon (UTL) (currently the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão (ISEG) of the Technical University of Lisbon), and obtained in 1963, with distinction, a degree in economics and finance (he scored a mark of 16 out of 20). While studying in Lisbon, Cavaco Silva was an athlete of CDUL athletics department from 1958 to 1963. Between 1963 and 1964, he was drafted into the Portuguese Army Artillery for compulsory 11 month military service, serving in a battalion in Lourenco Marques in Portuguese Mozambique[2]

In 1964 he married Maria Alves da Silva, a lecturer in Germanic philology at the University of Lisbon, with whom he has two children (Bruno Alves and Patrícia Maria). His teaching career began in 1966 as assistant to ISCEF, but two years later Cavaco Silva went to the University of York, in the United Kingdom, where, in 1973, he was awarded a doctorate in economics. His thesis at York was a defense of (then popular) Keynesian economics[3] (Neo-Keynesianism would influence his thought as Prime Minister later and he still self-identifies as a Neo-Keynesian).

Returning to Portugal, he took up a post as assistant professor in ISCEF (1974), professor at the Catholic University of Portugal (1975), extraordinary professor at the New University of Lisbon (1979) and finally director of the Office of Studies of the Bank of Portugal.[4]

He only became active in politics after the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, later that year joining the then PPD, a political party headed by Francisco Sá Carneiro. Cavaco Silva, was appointed Minister of Finance by Prime Minister Francisco Sá Carneiro in 1980. He gained a reputation as an economic liberal, gradually dismantling regulations inhibiting free enterprise. He refused to serve in the Central Block coalition of Socialists and Social Democrats (PSD) that governed from 1983 to 1985, and his election to the leadership of the PSD on 2 June 1985, portended the end of the coalition.

Professor Cavaco Silva has published several academic works in economics, including in subfields like monetary policy and monetary unions.

Silva received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2009 [5]

Political career in Portugal[edit]

Prime Minister[edit]

The 1985 legislative election was complicated by the arrival of a new political party, the Democratic Renewal Party (PRD), which had been formed by the supporters of the President, António Ramalho Eanes. In the 250-member Assembly of the Republic, the nation's legislature, the PRD won 45 seats – at the expense of every party except Cavaco Silva's PSD. Despite winning less than 30 percent of the popular vote, the PSD was the only traditional political party not to suffer substantial losses. Its 88 seats, in fact, represented a gain of 13 over the previous election. Accordingly, Cavaco Silva became Prime Minister on 6 November 1985.

Tax cuts and economic deregulation and the arrival of EU funds spurred several years of uninterrupted economic growth, which increased Cavaco Silva's popularity. He was hampered, however, by heading a minority government. On most issues, his Social Democrats could rely on the 22 votes of the Social and Democratic Center Party (CDS), but the two parties' combined 110 votes fell 16 short of a parliamentary majority. The Socialists and Communists held 57 and 38 seats respectively; Cavaco Silva could govern if the 45 members of the PRD, who held the balance of power, abstained, as they frequently did.

Prime minister Cavaco Silva meeting with U.S. president Ronald Reagan at the White House, 1988

In 1987, however, the PRD withdrew its tacit support, and a parliamentary vote of no confidence forced President Mário Soares to call an early election. The results of the election stunned even the most optimistic of Cavaco Silva's supporters. His Social Democrats captured 50.2 percent of the popular vote and 148 of the 250 seats in the legislature. Far behind were the Socialists, with only 60 seats, and the Communists, with 31. The CDS and the PRD were virtually wiped out, left with only four and seven seats, respectively. This was the first time since the 1974 revolution that a single party had won an outright majority in the national parliament.[6] At the time, it was also the largest majority that a Portuguese party had ever won in a free election.

Although the occurrence of economic growth and a public debt relatively well-contained as a result of the number of civil servants was increased from 485,368 in 1988 to 509,732 in 1991, which was a much lower increase than that which took place in the following years until 2011 marked by irrational and unsustainable State employment, from 1988 to 1993, during the government cabinets led by Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese economy was radically changed. As a result, there was a sharp and rapid decrease in the output of tradable goods and a rise of the importance of the non-tradable goods sector in the Portuguese economy.[7]

The 1991 election was another triumph for Cavaco Silva; it yielded a majority even larger (50.6 percent) than the one of four years earlier. However, the 1993 European economic crisis, sparking a high unemployment rate, and the country's mistrust of long-spanning governments, eroded his popularity. He decided not to contest the 1995 election, and the PSD, lacking a leader of his stature, lost 48 seats and the election.


Cavaco Silva contested the 1996 presidential election, but was defeated by the Mayor of Lisbon, Jorge Sampaio, the Socialist candidate. Retiring from politics, he served for several years as an advisor to the board of the Banco de Portugal (Bank of Portugal), but retired from this position in 2004. He then became a full professor at the School of Economics and Management of the Catholic University of Portugal, where he taught the undergraduate and MBA programs.

He declined to support Pedro Santana Lopes, whom he branded as a mediocre politician, in the 2005 parliamentary election, despite pressure from within his party.

He is a member of the Club of Madrid[8] and an honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

President of the Republic[edit]

President Cavaco Silva meets the President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, in 2007.

On 20 October 2005, Cavaco Silva announced his candidacy for the 2006 presidential election. He was elected President of the Republic on 22 January 2006 with 50.6% of votes cast, avoiding a run-off. He is the first elected center-right President in Portugal since 1974. He is also the second former Prime Minister to be elected President, following in the footsteps of Mário Soares.

He was sworn-in on 9 March 2006. He is also the President of the Portuguese Council of State.

Cavaco Silva's term was initially marked by a mutual understanding with the government led by Socialist José Sócrates, which he referred to as "strategic co-operation". He also avidly encouraged the suppression of partisan differences between the political parties in parliament, as a means of working towards the greater national good, despite the absolute majority held by the Socialist Party. This led to several controversies, with some branding Cavaco Silva, a practicing Roman Catholic and a self-described believer in Fátima apparitions, as a traitor to the center-right and to some of his own personal beliefs. Nevertheless, this seems to have been a misconception with respect to his presidency. In effect, he resorted to his veto power more than Mário Soares, who as a President was largely seen as too conflicting with the Government, in the latter's first term.

The most controversial moment of his presidency was when the Assembly of the Republic passed a bill for the holding of a pre-legislative referendum on the legalization of abortion in Portugal without any restrictions in the 10 first weeks of pregnancy. After the parliamentary approval of the bill summoning the referendum, Cavaco Silva referred the matter to the Portuguese Constitutional Court, which declared both the proposed legalization and the referendum constitutional by a narrow 7-6 margin. Cavaco Silva, who could still have vetoed the referendum bill, decided to sign it into law despite pressure from some pro-life sectors, and thus allowed the referendum. The majority of the Portuguese electorate abstained from the referendum, but the vote for legalization prevailed among those who chose to cast their ballot.

Cavaco Silva was reelected President of Portugal on 23 January 2011 with 52,92% of the vote, and he took office for his second five-year term on 9 March 2011.

2015 constitutional crisis[edit]

At the general election on 4 October 2015 to the Assembly of the Republic, the unicameral Portuguese parliament, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho lost its majority, with center-left and far-left opposition parties gaining more than half of the seats. As Passos Coelho's own Social Democratic Party remained the largest in parliament, and still had the support of the much smaller CDS – People's Party, Cavaco Silva allowed Passos Coelho to continue as Prime Minister, giving him the first chance to form a new government. Passos Coelho was unable to find any new partners and was widely expected to stand down, but on 22 October Cavaco Silva invited him to form a new government, even if it were a minority government. On 24 October Cavaco Silva explained his thinking:[9]

In 40 years of democracy, no government in Portugal has ever depended on the support of anti-European forces, that is to say forces that campaigned to abrogate the Lisbon Treaty, the Fiscal Compact, the Growth and Stability Pact, as well as to dismantle monetary union and take Portugal out of the euro, in addition to wanting the dissolution of NATO.[9]

Antonio Costa, leader of the Socialist Party, called this a grave mistake and added "It is unacceptable to usurp the exclusive powers of parliament. The Socialists will not take lessons from Professor Cavaco Silva on the defence of our democracy." The Green politician Rui Tavares commented "The president has created a constitutional crisis. He is saying that he will never allow the formation of a government containing Leftists and Communists. People are amazed by what has happened." The opposition parties quickly announced their intention of bringing down the new government in a motion of rejection.[9]

Eventually, Passos Coelho's government fell on a motion of no confidence, and the President appointed Antonio Costa, the leader of the Socialists, as Prime Minister in his place.

Life after politics[edit]


Cavaco Silva married at the Church of the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, on 20 October 1964, Maria Alves da Silva (b. Silves, São Bartolomeu de Messines, 31 October 1938), daughter of Francisco dos Santos Silva and wife Adelina de Jesus Pincho, with whom he has two children:[11]

  • Bruno Alves Cavaco Silva, married to Perpétua da Conceição Gomes Anacleto, and has one son:
    • João Vicente Anacleto Cavaco Silva (b. Lisbon, 13 January 2009)
  • Patrícia Maria Alves Cavaco Silva, married to Luís Manuel de Sá Montez, and has four children:

His brother, Rogério Cavaco Silva, is a businessman and a victim of the Dominion of Melchizedek scam.[12][13][14][15] His grandson, António Montez is a professional footballer.[16]

Awards and decorations[edit]

National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

State visits[edit]

Foreign trips of Cavaco Silva.

Cavaco Silva made state visits to countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. In his first year in office, he visited the former Portuguese colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, and met with Portuguese troops in Bosnia and Kosovo. In September 2006, he visited Portugal's only neighbour, Spain.[17]

Electoral results[edit]

Cavaco during his 2011 visit to the U.S.; pictured with John Chambers (CEO) and Helder Antunes.

1996 Portuguese presidential election[edit]

Aníbal Cavaco Silva finished second with 2,595,131 votes (46.09%).[18]

2006 Portuguese presidential election[edit]

Aníbal Cavaco Silva won the election with 2,773,431 votes (50.54%).[19]

2011 Portuguese presidential election[edit]

Aníbal Cavaco Silva won the election with 2,231,956 votes (52.95%).[20]


  • Cavaco Silva, Autobiografia Política, in 2 Vols.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (in Portuguese) Perfil de Cavaco Silva[permanent dead link],
  2. ^ (in Portuguese) Ás nas barreiras, Record
  3. ^ O esquizofrénico livro do Professor Cavaco Silva, Pura Economia
  4. ^ Cavaco Silva – Perfil, source Agência Lusa; website UOL (January 2006)
  5. ^ "Honorary Graduates 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-16.
  6. ^ David B. Goldey, "The Portuguese elections of 1987 and 1991 and the presidential election of 1991." Electoral Studies 11.2 (1992): 171-176.
  7. ^ (in Portuguese) Maior queda nos bens e serviços transaccionáveis aconteceu entre 1988 e 1993, TSF (December 27, 2012)
  8. ^ (in English) The Club of Madrid is an independent organization dedicated to strengthening democracy around the world by drawing on the unique experience and resources of its Members – 66 democratic former heads of state and government
  9. ^ a b c Eurozone crosses Rubicon as Portugal's anti-euro Left banned from power] in The Daily Telegraph dated 24 October 2015, online at, accessed 25 October 2015
  10. ^ Member Club of Madrid.
  11. ^ Aníbal António Cavaco Silva,
  12. ^ "Tribunal da Relação anula julgamento de burla com empresas 'off-shore'" [Appeals court voids swindle trial involving 'off-shore' companies]. Público (in Portuguese). Lisbon. Lusa. October 27, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  13. ^ Gomes, Adelino (November 14, 2005). "Burla que vitimou irmão de Cavaco Silva regressa hoje a tribunal" [Swindle that victimized Cavaco Silva's brother comes back to court today]. Público (in Portuguese). Lisbon. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  14. ^ "Burlaram 50 em 5 milhões" [[They] conned 50 [people] in 5 million [euros]]. Correio da Manhã (in Portuguese). Lisbon. May 5, 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  15. ^ "'Só quero ver se recebo o meu dinheiro'" [I just want to see if I get my money back]. Região da Nazaré (in Portuguese). Nazaré. May 22, 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  16. ^ "Neto de Cavaco Silva chamado: António Montez deve jogar contra o Benfica".
  17. ^ Francisco, Susete. "Presidente visita Espanha em Setembro" [President visits Spain in September]. Diário de Notícias (in Portuguese). Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  18. ^ Comissão Nacional de Eleições (1996)
  19. ^ Comissão Nacional de Eleições (2006)
  20. ^ Comissão Nacional de Eleições (2011)
Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Social Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the European Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Portugal
Succeeded by