Social Democratic Party (Portugal)

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Social Democratic Party

Partido Social Democrata
AbbreviationPPD/PSD [1]
President Rui Rio
Secretary-GeneralJosé Silvano
Founder Francisco Sá Carneiro
Founded6 May 1974;47 years ago (1974-05-06)
Legalized17 January 1975;46 years ago (1975-01-17) [1]
HeadquartersRua de S. Caetano à Lapa, 9,
1249-087 Lisboa
Newspaper Povo Livre
Youth wing Social Democratic Youth
Women's wingSocial Democratic Women
Workers wingSocial Democratic Workers
Membership (2018)129,735 [2]
Ideology Liberal conservatism
Political position Centre-right
European affiliation European People's Party
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
European Parliament group European People's Party
Colours  Orange
"Paz, Pão, Povo e Liberdade" [3]
"Peace, Bread, People and Freedom"
Assembly of the Republic
79 / 230
6 / 21
42 / 104
Local government
98 / 308
Local government
1,164 / 3,085
Party flag
Flag of the Social Democratic Party (Portugal).svg

The Social Democratic Party (Portuguese : Partido Social Democrata, pronounced  [pɐɾˈtiðu susiˈaɫ dɨmuˈkɾatɐ] ; PSD) is a centre-right, [4] [5] [6] liberal-conservative [7] [8] [9] political party in Portugal. Commonly known by its colloquial initials PSD, on ballot papers its initials appear as its official form PPD/PSD, with the first three letters coming from the party's original name, the Democratic Peoples' Party (Partido Popular Democrático, PPD). Alongside the Socialist Party, the PSD is one of the two major parties in Portuguese politics.


The party was founded in 1974, two weeks after the Carnation Revolution and in 1976 adopted its current name. In 1979, the PSD allied with centre-right parties to form the Democratic Alliance and won that year's election. After the 1983 general election, the party formed a grand coalition with the Socialist Party, known as the Central Bloc, before winning the 1985 general election under new leader Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who shifted the party to the right. Cavaco Silva served as Prime Minister for ten years, instituting major economic liberalisation and winning two landslide victories. After he stepped down, the PSD lost the 1995 election. The party was returned to power under José Manuel Durão Barroso in 2002, but was defeated in the 2005 election. The party was able to return to power after the 2011 elections and four years later was able to win a plurality in the 2015 legislative election, winning 107 seats in the Assembly of the Republic in alliance with the CDS – People's Party, but being unable to form a minority government. The current leader, Rui Rio, a centrist, was elected on 13 January 2018.

Originally a social-democratic party, the PSD became the main centre-right, conservative party in Portugal. [4] The PSD is a member of the European People's Party and the Centrist Democrat International. Until 1996, the PSD belonged to the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and Liberal International. [4] The party publishes the weekly Povo Livre (Free People) newspaper.



Rui Rio, leader since 2018 Rui Rio.jpg
Rui Rio, leader since 2018

The Social Democratic Party was born on 6 May 1974, when Francisco Sá Carneiro, Francisco Pinto Balsemão and Joaquim Magalhães Mota publicly announced the formation of what was then called the PPD, the Democratic People's Party (Portuguese : Partido Popular Democrático). On 15 May, the party's first headquarters were inaugurated in Largo do Rato, Lisbon. This was followed, on 24 June, by the formation of the first Political Committee, consisting of Francisco Sá Carneiro, Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Joaquim Magalhães Mota, Barbosa de Melo, Mota Pinto, Montalvão Machado, Miguel Veiga, Ferreira Júnior, António Carlos Lima, António Salazar Silva, Jorge Correia da Cunha, Jorge Figueiredo Dias and Jorge Sá Borges.

The Povo Livre publication was founded, its first issue being published on 13 July 1974, led by its first two directors, Manuel Alegria and Rui Machete. The PPD's first major meeting was held in the "Pavilhão dos Desportos", Lisbon, on 25 October, and a month later the party's first official congress took place.

On 17 January 1975, 6300 signatures were sent to the Supreme Court so that the party could be approved as a legitimate political entity, which happened a mere eight days later.

In 1975, the PPD applied unsuccessfully to join the Socialist International, [10] with its membership attempt vetoed by the Socialist Party. [11]

Alberto João Jardim was the co-founder of the Madeiran branch of the PSD, and governed the autonomous archipelago for decades, running as a member of the party.

Democratic Alliance governments

The Social Democratic Party participated in a number of coalition governments in Portugal between 1974 and 1976, following the Carnation Revolution. This is seen as a transitional period in Portuguese politics, in which political institutions were built and took time to stabilize. In 1979, the PSD formed an electoral alliance, known as the Democratic Alliance (AD), with the Democratic and Social Centre (now called the People's Party, CDS-PP) and a couple of smaller right-wing parties. The AD won the parliamentary elections towards the end of 1979, and the PSD leader, Francisco Sá Carneiro, became Prime Minister. The PSD would be part of all governments until 1995. The AD increased its parliamentary majority in new elections called for 1980, but was devastated by the death of Sá Caneiro in an air crash on 4 December 1980. Francisco Pinto Balsemão took over the leadership of both the Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance, as well as the Prime Ministership, but lacking Sá Carneiro's charisma, he was unable to rally popular support.

The Democratic Alliance was dissolved in 1983, and in parliamentary elections that year, the PSD lost to the Socialist Party (PS). Falling short of a majority, however, the Socialists formed a grand coalition, known as the Central Bloc, with the PSD. Many right-wingers in the PSD, including Aníbal Cavaco Silva, opposed participation in the PS-led government, and so, when Cavaco Silva was elected leader of the party on 2 June 1985, the coalition was doomed.

Cavaco Silva governments (1985–1995)

The PSD won a plurality (but not a majority) in the general election of 1985, and Cavaco Silva became Prime Minister. Economic liberalization and tax cuts ushered in several years of economic growth. After a motion of no confidence was approved, early elections were called for July 1987 which resulted in a landslide victory for the PSD, who captured 50.2% percent of the popular vote and 148 of the 250 parliamentary seats – the first time that any political party in Portugal had mustered an absolute majority in a free election. A strong economy, growing above 7% in 1988, ushered a big convergence between Portugal and other EU countries. The PSD won a historic 3rd term in the 1991 election, almost as easily as in 1987, but continuing high levels of unemployment and a lower economy, after 1993, eroded the popularity of the Cavaco Silva government.

Post-Cavaco Silva

Cavaco Silva stepped down as leader in January 1995. In the following month, in the PSD congress, the party elected Fernando Nogueira as leader. The PSD lost the 1995 election to the PS. In 1996, Cavaco Silva ran for the presidency of the republic, but he failed to defeat former Lisbon Mayor Jorge Sampaio. Sampaio won 53.9% to Cavaco's 46.1%. The party, for the first time in 16 years, was out of government. The party was again defeated in the 1999 elections.

First PSD/CDS coalition government

The PSD made a comeback in 2002, however: despite falling short of a majority, the PSD won enough seats to form a coalition with the CDS-PP, and the PSD leader, José Manuel Durão Barroso, became Prime Minister. Durão Barroso later resigned his post to become President of the European Commission, leaving the way for Pedro Santana Lopes, a man with whom he was frequently at odds, to become leader of the party and Prime Minister.

Back in opposition (2005–2011)

In the parliamentary election held on 20 February 2005, Santana Lopes led the PSD to its worst defeat since 1983. With a negative swing of more than 12% percent, the party won only 75 seats, a loss of 30. The rival Socialist Party had won an absolute majority, and remained in government after the 2009 parliamentary election, albeit without an absolute majority, leaving the PSD in opposition.

The PSD-supported candidate Aníbal Cavaco Silva won the Portuguese presidential elections in 2006 and again in 2011. After the 2005 elections, Luís Marques Mendes was elected leader of the party. Internal infighting weakened Marques Mendes and, in September 2007, Marques Mendes was defeated by Luís Filipe Menezes by a 54% to 42% margin. Menezes was also incapable of dealing with his internal opposition and, after just six months in the job, Menezes resigned. On 31 May 2008, Manuela Ferreira Leite became the first female leader of a Portuguese major party. She won 38% of the votes, against the 31% of Pedro Passos Coelho and the 30% of Pedro Santana Lopes.

In the European Parliament election held on 7 June 2009, the PSD defeated the governing socialists, capturing 31.7% of the popular vote and electing eight MEPs, while the Socialist Party only won 26.5% of the popular vote and elected seven MEPs.

Although this was expected to be a "redrawing of the electoral map", the PSD has still defeated later that year, though the PS lost its majority. Pedro Passos Coelho was elected leader in March 2010, with 61% of the votes.

Second PSD/CDS coalition government

Growing popular disenchantment with the government's handling of the economic crisis coupled with the government's inability to secure the support of other parties to implement the necessary reforms to address the crisis, forced the Socialist Party Prime Minister José Sócrates to resign, leading to a fresh election on 5 June 2011. This resulted in a non-absolute majority for the PSD, leading to a coalition government with the CDS-PP, which served a full term until the 2015 general election. During this term, many austerity policies were put into practice to reduce the budget deficit but, ultimately, created unemployment and a recession that lasted until mid 2013. Since that date, the economy recovered starting to grow between 1 and 2% per trimester.

In the 2015 general election, the PSD and CDS-PP ran in a joint coalition, called Portugal Ahead, led by Pedro Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas. The coalition won the elections by a wide margin over the Socialists, capturing 38.6% of the votes while the Socialists captured only 32%, although the coalition lost 25 MPs and a more than 11% of the votes, thus falling well short of an absolute majority. The PSD/CDS-PP coalition was asked by the then President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, to form a government with Passos Coelho as Prime Minister.

Back in opposition (2015–present)

The 2nd PSD/CDS government was duly formed and took the oath of office on 30 October 2015, but fell after a no-confidence motion was approved two weeks later. Its 11 days of rule make it the shortest-lived government since Portugal has been a democracy holding free elections. After that, the PSD returned to the opposition benches, and the Socialist Party was able to form an agreement with BE and CDU to support a PS minority government led by António Costa. Pedro Passos Coelho continued as party leader, but a weak opposition strategy led to bad polling numbers for the PSD. All of this culminated with the results of the 2017 local elections. In these elections, the PSD achieved their worst results ever, winning just 98 mayors and 30% of the votes. Passos Coelho announced he would not run for another term as PSD leader. On 13 January 2018, Rui Rio defeated Pedro Santana Lopes by a 54% to 46% margin and became the new party leader.

During his first year in the leadership, Rio faced big internal opposition and, in January 2019, Rio won a motion of confidence presented by Luís Montenegro. In the EP 2019 elections, the PSD achieved their worst result ever in a national election, winning just 22% of the votes. However, the party recovered a lot of ground in the October 2019 general elections, achieving 28% of the votes, against the 36% of the PS. Nonetheless, Rio's leadership was, once again, challenged and he faced, in a two round leadership contest in January 2020, Luís Montenegro and Miguel Pinto Luz. Rio won the 1st round with 49% of the votes and defeated Luís Montenegro in the 2nd round by 53% to 47% margin, thus being re-elected as party leader.

In the Azores 2020 regional elections, the PSD was able to return to power, after 24 years in opposition, by forging a controversial deal with CHEGA, plus CDS, PPM and IL. [12] The PSD won almost 34% of the votes, while the PS fell more than 7  pp, compared with 2016, to 39%, an unexpected result, and overall the right wing parties had a 1 seat majority over all the left. [13] After 2020, the PSD controls the governments of Portugal's only two autonomous regions.


Historical evolution

Francisco Pinto Balsemao, Prime Minister 1981-1983 Pinto Balsemao.jpg
Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Prime Minister 1981–1983
Anibal Cavaco Silva, Prime Minister 1985-1995 and President 2006-2016 Anibal Cavaco Silva 2014.jpg
Aníbal Cavaco Silva, Prime Minister 1985–1995 and President 2006–2016

The party was founded based on classical social democracy [4] and was a centre [14] [15] to centre-left [16] party, but later it evolved into catch-all centre-right party. The party has been described as liberal-conservative, [8] [9] conservative, [4] or conservative-liberal, [17] with Christian democratic and liberal elements. [16]


The PSD is frequently referred to as a party that is not ideology-based, but rather a power party (partido do poder). [18] It frequently adopts a functional big tent party strategy to win elections. [18] Due to this strategy, which most trace to Cavaco Silva's leadership, [19] the party is made up of many factions, mostly centre-right (including liberal democrats, Christian democrats and neoconservatives) as well as quasi-social-democrats and former communists:

Durao Barroso, Prime Minister 2002-2004 Barroso EPP Summit October 2010.jpg
Durão Barroso, Prime Minister 2002–2004
Pedro Santana Lopes, Prime Minister 2004-2005 Pedro Santana Lopes 01.jpg
Pedro Santana Lopes, Prime Minister 2004–2005
Pedro Passos Coelho, Prime Minister 2011-2015 Flickr - europeanpeoplesparty - EPP Summit June 2010 (82).jpg
Pedro Passos Coelho, Prime Minister 2011–2015

Election results

Assembly of the Republic

Election Assembly of the Republic GovernmentSizeLeader
Votes %±pp Seats won+/−
1975 1,507,28226.4%
81 / 250
Constituent assembly 2nd Francisco Sá Carneiro
1976 1,335,38124.4%Decrease2.svg2.0
73 / 263
1979 w. Democratic Alliance
80 / 250
Increase2.svg7 Majority gov't 1st
1980 w. Democratic Alliance
82 / 250
Increase2.svg2Majority gov't1st
1983 1,554,80427.2%
75 / 250
Decrease2.svg7 Central Bloc gov't
2nd Carlos Mota Pinto
1985 1,732,28829.9%Increase2.svg2.7
88 / 250
Increase2.svg13 Minority gov't [lower-alpha 1] 1st Aníbal Cavaco Silva
1987 2,850,78450.2%Increase2.svg20.3
148 / 250
Increase2.svg60Majority gov't1st
1991 2,902,35150.6%Increase2.svg0.4
135 / 230
Decrease2.svg13Majority gov't1st
1995 2,014,58934.1%Decrease2.svg16.5
88 / 230
Decrease2.svg47Opposition2nd Fernando Nogueira
1999 1,750,15832.3%Decrease2.svg1.8
81 / 230
Decrease2.svg7Opposition2nd José Manuel Durão Barroso
2002 2,200,76540.2%Increase2.svg7.9
105 / 230
Increase2.svg24 Coalition gov't
2005 1,653,42528.8%Decrease2.svg11.4
71 / 230
Decrease2.svg34Opposition2nd Pedro Santana Lopes
2009 1,653,66529.1%Increase2.svg0.3
81 / 230
Increase2.svg10Opposition2nd Manuela Ferreira Leite
2011 2,159,18138.7%Increase2.svg9.6
108 / 230
Increase2.svg27Coalition gov't
1st Pedro Passos Coelho
2015 w. Portugal Ahead
89 / 230
Decrease2.svg19Minority gov't (2015)1st
Opposition (2015-19)
2019 1,454,28327.8%
79 / 230
Decrease2.svg10Opposition2nd Rui Rio

European Parliament

Election European Parliament SizeCandidate
Votes %±pp Seats won+/
1987 2,111,82837.5%
10 / 24
1st Pedro Santana Lopes
1989 1,358,95832.8%Decrease2.svg4.7
9 / 24
Decrease2.svg11st António Capucho
1994 1,046,91834.4%Increase2.svg1.6
9 / 25
Steady2.svg02nd Eurico de Melo
1999 1,078,52831.1%Decrease2.svg3.3
9 / 25
Steady2.svg02nd José Pacheco Pereira
2004 w. Força Portugal
7 / 24
Decrease2.svg22nd João de Deus Pinheiro
2009 1,131,74431.7%
8 / 22
Increase2.svg11st Paulo Rangel
2014 w. Aliança Portugal
6 / 21
2019 727,22421.9%
6 / 21

Regional Assemblies

Regional Assemblies GovernmentSize
Votes %±pp Seats won+/−
Azores 2020 35,09433.7%Increase2.svg2.8
21 / 57
Increase2.svg2Coalition gov't [lower-alpha 2]
Steady2.svg 2nd
Madeira 2019 56,44939.4%Decrease2.svg4.9
21 / 47
Decrease2.svg3Coalition gov't

List of leaders

List of Secretaries-General (second-in-command)

Source: [60]

Prime Ministers

Presidents of the Republic

See also


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