The Portuguese Parliament consists of a single
Chamber known as the Assembly of the Republic. The
Constitution 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.
The Constitution, the
Rules of Procedure and
the Statute of Members lay down the Assembly of the Republics
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 Public
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 citizenship.
Statute and Election
The Assembly of the Republic is the assembly
that represents all Portuguese citizens. It is made up of
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 constituency. Votes are converted into seats
using the proportional representation system and dHondts
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 4 october
2015 initiated the 13th Legislature. The official results
of the elections were published in Series I of Diário
da República no. 205 dated 20 october 2015, Official
Table no. 2-B/2015.
Please click on this link for a summary of
results 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 Governments organisation and
There are subjects on which only the Assembly
can legislate. These are the matters that fall within the
Assemblys 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 Republics 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 national defence).
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
All other Assembly decisions take the form
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 Governments
Programme, any opposition parliamentary group can move to
reject it, or the Government can ask for a vote of confidence.
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 such
Members can ask that the Assembly consider
executive laws passed by the Government, except those concerning
the Governments 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
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.
Common Legislative Procedure
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 Members
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.
Members bills that are submitted in this
way must be signed by at least 20,000 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 territory.
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 the
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
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 Presidents 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.
Organisation and Modus Operandi
At 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
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 parliamentary group.
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 Governments
Programme, and causing the holding of two debates in each
legislative session by calling on the Government to attend
The proportional makeup of the Assemblys
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 sittings.
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 Republics
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
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.