The Portuguese Parliament consists of
a single Chamber known as the Assembly of the Republic.
says that there are a number of entities that exercise sovereignty,
of which the Assembly is one (the others are the President
of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts). In the words
of the Constitution, it is “the assembly that represents
all Portuguese citizens”.
Rules of Procedure
Statute of Members
lay down the Assembly of the Republic’s competences
and the rules governing its modus operandi (the way it works),
together with the rights and duties of its Members. In doing
so they ensure that there is both a separation of powers and
various forms of interdependence in relation to the other
entities that exercise sovereignty.
In addition to its primordial role of representing all
Portuguese citizens, the Assembly of the Republic is also
responsible for passing the fundamental laws of the
Republic, scrutinising compliance with the Constitution and
the laws, and considering the acts of the Government and the
This page will enable you to get a better picture of the
many aspects of the Assembly of the Republic – the way it is
elected, its position within the group of entities that
exercise sovereignty, its organisation and modus operandi
and the way a law is made. It also offers some notes about
the history of parliamentarianism.
Knowing more about the Assembly of the Republic is essential
to a more enlightened exercise of the inalienable right to
Statute and Election
The Assembly of the Republic is the assembly that represents
all Portuguese citizens. It is made up of
230 Members of the Assembly of the Republic.
Any Portuguese citizen (aged 18 or over) can be a Member of
the Assembly of the Republic. Electoral law does make some
exceptions due to the nature of certain positions, such as
judges, active military personnel, diplomats and others.
Members of the Assembly of the Republic are elected from lists
that parties or coalitions of parties put forward in each
Votes are converted into seats using the proportional representation
system and d’Hondt’s
Each Member represents the whole country and not just the
citizens from the constituency for which he or she was
elected. Their term of office is four years, which
corresponds to the duration of one legislature.
Each parliamentary year is known as a legislative session,
and starts on 15 September.
Members’ terms of office
only end the first time the Assembly sits after new
elections have been held.
The Assembly that was elected on 5
June 2011 initiated the 12th Legislature.
The official results of the elections were published in
Series I of Diário da República no. 116 dated 17 June 2011, Official Table
Please click on this link for a summary of the
since the 1st Legislature.
The Assembly of the Republic possesses political,
legislative and supervisory competences, and also some other
competences in relation to other entities.
The Assembly can legislate on anything except matters that
concern the Government’s organisation and modus operandi.
There are subjects on which only the Assembly can legislate.
These are the matters that fall within the Assembly’s
exclusive legislative competence – for example, elections,
political parties, the State Budget, referenda, and the
basic laws on the education system and national defence.
There are other matters that fall within the Assembly of the
Republic’s partially exclusive legislative competence, and
the Government can pass legislation on them if the Assembly
authorises it to do so. Examples include rights, freedoms
and guarantees, the definition of crimes and security
measures, taxes and the fiscal system, agricultural and
monetary policies, rural and urban rentals, the jurisdiction
of the courts, and information services.
The legislative texts passed by the Assembly are called
decrees, but after they have been enacted and have received
the ministerial counter-signature, they are published as
Laws. As a rule, their passage requires a simple majority.
However, some laws, which are known as Organisational Laws,
have to be passed by an absolute majority of the sitting
Members of the Assembly of the Republic (this is the case,
for example, with laws on elections to the Assembly of the
Republic and the Presidency of the Republic, referenda, and
Laws that amend the Constitution are called Constitutional
Laws and have to be passed by a majority of at least 2/3 of
all the Members in full exercise of their office.
All other Assembly decisions take the form of Resolutions.
The Assembly is responsible for scrutinising compliance with
the Constitution and the laws and considering the acts of
the Government and the Administration.
The Government is formed in the light of the result of the
legislative elections (the name that is given to the
elections to the Assembly of the Republic). After taking
office, the Government submits its Programme to the Assembly
of the Republic, which then has up to three plenary sittings
to consider it. During the debate on the Government’s
Programme, any opposition parliamentary group can move to
reject it, or the Government can ask for a vote of
At any time, the Government can ask the Assembly to pass a
motion of confidence in relation to any matter of important
national interest. Similarly, any parliamentary group can
make a motion of no confidence in the Government. Passage of
a motion of no confidence by an absolute majority of Members
in full exercise of their office or rejection of a motion of
confidence by a simple majority of Members who are present
means the Government must resign.
In each legislative session (parliamentary year), each
parliamentary group can cause the holding of two debates on
a matter of general or sectoral policy. This type of
initiative is known as calling upon the Government.
The Prime Minister must also attend the Plenary for a
session of Members’ questions once a fortnight. Members may
also submit written questions to the Government, and these
are known as requests.
Any matter of important public interest related to
compliance with laws or to acts of the Government and the
Public Administration can be the object of a parliamentary
inquiry. The Assembly forms an ad hoc committee for each
Members can ask that the Assembly consider executive laws
passed by the Government, except those concerning the
Government’s exclusive competences. The Assembly can
entirely or partially suspend the force of an executive law
until the law that amends it is published.
Competences in relation to other Entities:
The President of the Republic takes office before the
Assembly of the Republic.
The President of the Republic cannot absent himself from
Portuguese territory without the consent of the Assembly of
the Republic, except when he or she is on a private visit
lasting no more than five days.
The Assembly of the Republic also has the competence to pass
the political and administrative statutes and the electoral
laws of the autonomous regions, give opinions on the
dissolution of their self-government organs, and grant the
respective Regional Legislative Assemblies authorisation to
legislate on certain matters.
The Assembly of the Republic plays a sometimes exclusive and
sometimes joint role in the appointment of the officeholders
of certain external entities, especially the Ombudsman, the
President of the Economic and Social Council, the Justices
of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Judicial Council,
the National Electoral Commission, the Intelligence Services
Oversight Council, etc.
The power to initiate legislation lies with Members of the
Assembly of the Republic and parliamentary groups, in which
case they take the form of Member’s bills, and with the
Government and the Regional Legislative Assemblies, when
they take the form of government bills.
Under the terms of Article 167 of the Constitution and Law
no. 17/2003, of 4 June 2003, groups of registered electors
can also exercise the right to initiate legislation before
the Assembly of the Republic, and can participate in the
resulting legislative procedure.
Member’s bills that are submitted in this way must be
signed by at least 35,000 registered electors.
Once it has been admitted by the President of the Assembly,
each initiative is sent to a specialised committee for an
opinion. This is followed by a debate on the general
principles, which is always held in plenary sitting and ends
with a vote on the general principles (about the overall
outline of the initiative).
There then follows a debate and a vote on the details
(article by article), which takes place either in the
Plenary or in committee.
Certain matters require that the debate and vote on the
details take place in the Plenary. Examples include those
concerning elections for the officeholders of entities that
exercise sovereignty, referenda, political parties, and the
creation of local authorities and changes to their
The final text is put to a final overall vote, which always
occurs in the Plenary.
If an initiative is passed, it becomes known as a Decree of
the Assembly of the Republic.
Each Decree is signed by the President
of the Assembly of the Republic and sent to the President of
Republic for enactment. Once enacted, the Decree is called a
Law and is sent to the Government for counter-signature
(signature by the Prime Minister), and then on to the
National Press for publication in Series 1 of the
Diário da República.
The President of the Republic can exercise the right of
veto, either because he or she considers that the text which
has been passed by the Assembly of the Republic contains
rules that contradict the Constitution (whereupon the
President will ask the Constitutional Court for an opinion),
or for political reasons, which must be set out in a message
that includes the grounds for the President’s position.
In the event that any of the rules in
legislation are considered unconstitutional, the Assembly
can pass amendments to the text and again send it for enactment.
However, whatever the reason for the veto, the Assembly can
always confirm a text that has previously been passed by an
absolute majority of sitting Members
(or a majority of 2/3 for certain
matters). In this case, the President of the Republic must
obligatorily enact the bill within 8 days.
and Modus OperandiModus
the start of each legislature, the Assembly elects its President
and the other members of the Bureau. It also lists the members
of the specialist standing committees, although the Plenary
can decide to change them later.
The President represents the Assembly, chairs the Bureau,
directs parliamentary proceedings, sets the order of
business after first consulting the
Conference of Parliamentary Group Representatives,
signs the decrees and other documents issued in the name of
the Assembly of the Republic, and oversees its
The President of the Assembly of the Republic is elected by
an absolute majority of the Members in full exercise of
their office. He is also responsible for temporarily
substituting for the President of the Republic.
The Bureau is an organ made up of the President, four
Vice-Presidents, four Secretaries and four Vice-Secretaries.
It is elected for the duration of each legislature, and is
responsible for assisting the President in the exercise of
his functions, declaring that a Member has lost his seat,
and directing plenary sittings.
The Members of the Assembly of the Republic who are elected
for each party or coalition of parties can form a
Usually, there are as many parliamentary groups as there are
parties with seats in the Assembly.
Parliamentary groups have certain rights, such as appointing
their representatives on committees, submitting Members’
bills, being consulted via their chairmen as to the order of
business, making motions of no confidence in the Government
and motions rejecting the Government’s Programme, and
causing the holding of two debates in each legislative
session by calling on the Government to attend the Assembly.
The proportional makeup of the Assembly’s specialist
standing committees matches the number of seats each party
holds in the Assembly.
The legislative initiatives that are submitted to the
Assembly are studied and debated at committee meetings
before being considered or put to the vote in plenary
Subject to the prior consent of the President of the
Assembly of the Republic, any committee can form
subcommittees whenever it considers it necessary.
The Assembly can also form ad hoc committees and working
groups for particular purposes.
The Standing Committee operates when the Assembly of the
Republic is not in full session or has been dissolved. It is
composed of the President of the Assembly, the
Vice-Presidents and Members appointed by each of the
political parties. The Standing Committee is responsible for
monitoring the activities of the Government, consenting to
the President of the Republic’s absence from the country,
authorising committees to function if necessary, and
preparing the opening of legislative sessions.
Political and legislative debates can take place either in
plenary sittings or at committee meetings.
The President sets the agenda (known as the order of
business) of each plenary sitting at least fifteen days in
advance, after first consulting the
Conference of Parliamentary Group Representatives,
at which the Government is also entitled to be represented.
Members of the Government can also speak in debates.
Plenary sittings are public, and usually take place three
times a week.
Each plenary sitting is recorded in full and the
transcription is published in Series 1 of the Official
Journal of the Assembly of the Republic.
Committee meetings are scheduled either by the committee
itself or by its chairman, and the order of business for
each one is set in advance.
Members of the Government can take part in committee
meetings. These are public, but committees can meet in
camera whenever this is justified by the classified nature
of the matters under consideration.