Portugal has been a semi-presidential constitutional republic since the ratification of the Constitution of 1976, with Lisbon, the nation’s largest city, as its capital. The constitution grants the division, or separation, of powers among legislative, executive (whereby the President and the Prime Minister share key executive powers), and judicial branches. The four main institutions as described in this constitution are the President of the Republic, the Parliament, known as the Assembleia da República (English: Assembly of the Republic), the Government, headed by a Prime Minister, and the courts.
The President, who is elected to a five-year term, has a supervisory executive role: the current President is Aníbal Cavaco Silva. The Parliament is a chamber composed of 230 deputies elected for a four-year term. The government, whose head is the Prime Minister (currently Pedro Passos Coelho), chooses a Council of Ministers, that comprises the Ministers and State Secretaries. The courts are organized into several levels: judicial, administrative, and fiscal branches. The Supreme Courts are institutions of last resort/appeal. A thirteen-member Constitutional Court oversees the constitutionality of the laws.
Portugal operates a multi-party system of competitive legislatures/local administrative governments at the national-, regional- and local-levels. The Legislative Assembly, Regional Assemblies and local municipalities and/or parishes, are dominated by two political parties, the Socialist Party and the Social Democratic Party, in addition to the Democratic Unity Coalition (Portuguese Communist Party plus Ecologist Party “The Greens”), the Left Bloc and the Democratic and Social Centre – People’s Party, which garner between 5 and 15% of the vote regularly.
The President, elected to a five-year term by direct, universal suffrage, is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Presidential powers include the appointment of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (where the President is obligated by the results from Legislative Elections); 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 President is advised on issues of importance by the Council of State, which is composed of six senior civilian officers, any former Presidents elected under the 1976 Constitution, five-members chosen by the Assembly, and five selected by the president.
The Government is headed by the presidentially appointed Prime Minister, who names a Council of Ministers to act as the government and cabinet. Each government is required to define the broad outline of its policies in a program, and present it to the Assembly for a mandatory period of debate. The 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 230 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation, deputies serve four-year terms of office, unless the President dissolves the Assembly and calls for new elections.