Portugal's April 25, 1976 constitution reflected the country's 1974-76 move from authoritarian rule to provisional military government to a parliamentary democracy with some initial communist and left-wing influence. The 1976 constitution, which defined Portugal as a "Republic. . .engaged in the formation of a classless society," was revised in 1982, 1989, 1992, and 1997.
The 1982 revision placed the military under strict civilian control, trimmed the powers of the president, and abolished the Revolutionary Council (a non-elected committee with legislative veto powers). The 1989 revision eliminated much of the remaining Marxist rhetoric of the original document, abolished the communist-inspired "agrarian reform," and laid the groundwork for further privatization of nationalized firms and the government-owned communications media.
The constitution provides for progressive administrative decentralization and calls for future reorganization on a regional basis. The Azores and Madeira Islands have constitutionally mandated autonomous status. A regional autonomy statute promulgated in 1980 established the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores; the Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira operates under a provisional autonomy statute in effect since 1976. Apart from the Azores and Madeira, the country is divided into 18 districts, each headed by a governor appointed by the Minister of Internal Administration. Macau, a dependency which will revert to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, is headed by a presidentially nominated governor general. The four main organs of the national government are the presidency, the prime minister and Council of Ministers (the government), the Assembly of the Republic (parliament), and the courts.
The president, elected to a five-year term by direct, universal suffrage, also is commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential powers include appointing the prime minister and Council of Ministers, in which the president must be guided by the assembly election results; dismissing the prime minister; dissolving the assembly to call early elections; vetoing legislation, which may be overridden by the assembly; and declaring a state of war or siege.
The Council of State, an advisory body to the president, is composed of the incumbents of six senior civilian offices, any former presidents elected under the 1976 constitution, five members chosen by the assembly, and five chosen by the president himself.
The government is headed by the presidentially appointed prime minister, who names the Council of Ministers. A new government is required to define the broad outline of its policy in a program and present it to the assembly for a mandatory period of debate. Failure of the assembly to reject the program by a majority of deputies confirms the government in office.
The Assembly of the Republic is a unicameral body composed of up to 235 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation, deputies serve terms of office of four years, unless the president dissolves the assembly and calls for new elections.
The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. Military, administrative, and fiscal courts are designated as separate court categories. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation.