Chapter 9: The Iberian Peninsula and Greece
The Portuguese political system is still highly centralized despite a constitutional norm of administrative decentralization and EU pressure for decentralization (Rodrigues/Madureira 2010). It is a unitary state with two autonomous regions (Madeira and the Azores), local autonomy and a directly elected president who scrutinizes legislation and symbolizes stability rather than having executive functions (similar to the directly elected Austrian president). However, in some cases of ‘cohabitation’, presidents have also used their right to veto government legislation. For instance, in 2004 President Sampaio (Partido Socialista, PS) vetoed extensively against the Lopes cabinet (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), which was going to break with the consolidation policy of its predecessor, the Barroso cabinet (PSD). Finally, the president decided to dissolve the unicameral parliament at the end of 2004 (Fonseca 2009: 774). Another institutional feature is the frequent alternation of minority cabinets, single party cabinets and two or three party coalitions. However, this does not seem to weaken ‘governability’ in Portugal. To avoid inertia by fragmentation or polarization, the constitution allows parliament to transfer certain non-restricted powers to the government. Thus, cabinets can try to gain legislative powers, enabling them to govern in certain fields by decree laws. Such ‘authorizations’ of governments by parliament are a common feature in southern European political systems; however, Portugal has maybe the most far reaching opportunities in this regard.
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