Portugal’s parliament “dissolved”: what does this mean

Key diplomas ‘fall’, including constitutional revision and law to regulate lobbying

Portugal’s parliament is now officially ‘dissolved’: electioneering – already well underway since the government ‘fell’ in November – will now accelerate a few notches before the official election campaign, a few weeks ahead of the country going to the polls on March 10.

But the instant consequences are that the country is in the hands of a ‘permanent commission’, involving less MPs than sat in parliament, and limited powers.

The commission is chaired by Augusto Santos Silva, the former parliamentary leader – and its first meeting is not scheduled until next week. Thereafter it will meet every fortnight.

In practice, the commission can ‘question the government in writing’ over various issues, but it cannot call ministers in for ‘hearings’. 

The weekly ‘Council of Ministers’ (meeting of the government’s inner circle) ceases, and with it goes the executive’s powers to approve any further laws.

Much more relevant perhaps is the fact that diplomas that have fallen – one of which sought to change the freedom of citizens dramatically – are now back as if they had never started.

According to pundits, the initiative to change the Constitution so that in future health authorities could order citizens into confinement whenever they believed there was a public health emergency, may never resurface.

“All the work on constitutional revision which involved several months goes onto the back burner, so much so that the next make-up of parliament could make this revision difficult, as it will require the agreement of two-thirds of MPs”, writes Correio da Manhã.

Other diplomas considered ‘important’ that have basically collapsed include a law to regulate lobbying, and some of the tougher aspects of the Tobacco Law, encouraged by Brussels but met with stiff resistance here, to the point that very little has changed.

There was a ‘rush’ post-resignation of António Costa to accelerate business (viz the passing of diplomas like changes to the Nationality Law, rules on the use of metadata in police investigations, changes to professional statutes, etc.) but now things will quieten down, in parliament at least, while the various parties fight tooth and nail for votes in an election that is not expected to produce any kind of absolute majority.

[email protected]