Portuguese Alliance

Social Democratic Party (PSD) & Democratic and Social Centre – People’s Party (CDS-PP). This year the two governing parties, the PSD and the CDS-PP are running a joint list, officially called the Portuguese Alliance.

The PSD and the CDS-PP represent the centre-right and right of the Portuguese political spectrum, respectively.

The PSD was founded in 1974, just two weeks after the Carnation Revolution. As its name suggests the party was initially centre-left, the party moved progressively rightwards throughout the 1980s, as it became popular as the most viable opposition to the Socialists, and, for a time, claimed to be a liberal party.

The Social Democratic Party is a catch-all party in the truest sense. The party is home to a vast number of ideological currents, running from genuine social democrats through to conservatives, liberals, populists and Christian democrats. A particularly unique group is the so-called ‘Portuguese social democrats’ who advocate a centrist, slightly anti-statist and populist form of social democracy heavily influenced by Catholic social teaching.

Generally, in power, however, it has tended to pursue a moderate centre-right agenda, and the party is broadly comparable to Christian Democratic and moderate Conservative parties throughout the rest of Europe.

After the consolidation of the Portuguese party system in the late 80s, the PSD won two massive landslides, winning more than 50% of the vote in 1987 and 1991. However the PSD has generally been weaker than its main opponent, the Socialists, since then, governing only in 2002-5 in a fractious coalition with the CDS-PP. It has ruled again since 2011, with the CDS-PP once again.

The PSD is much stronger than the PS in the North of Portugal, where there are still high levels of church attendance, families are large and property ownership is much more common.

The party is currently the senior partner in government and provides the Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, who originates in the party’s centrist and pragmatist wing.

The PSD is broadly pro-European, and its former Prime Minister between 2002 and 2004, Jose Manuel Barroso, is currently coming to the end of his second term as President of the European Commission and thus the most powerful person in the EU structure. Barroso is an Atlanticist and pro-market Commission President.

The PSD’s junior coalition partner and partner in this election list is the Democratic Social Centre – People’s Party. There isn’t much to say about the CDS-PP except to say that it is broadly ideologically similar to the PSD except to its right on pretty much every issue. The party, is, like the PSD, heavily factionalised and includes Christian Democratic, right-wing liberal and Conservative factions, but broadly the CDS-PP is to the right of the PSD on both social and economic issues.

The CDS-PP is especially opposed to abortion which was only legalised by request in Portugal in 2007, with a referendum on the subject

The party is less supportive of austerity than the PSD, not because it favours state spending but because it is opposed to tax rises and would rather see tax cuts.

The CDS-PP has only been in power rarely, as its only route to power is through the PSD. Thus the PSD must not win a majority (making CDS-PP unnecessary) but PSD+CDS-PP must also equal a majority. Obviously, this is rare. The party was in government from 1979-1983 and again from 2002-2005, having spent almost 20 years in opposition. The party is once again in government from 2011, serving as the PSD’s junior coalition partner.

The party, and particularly its leader, Paulo Portas have a reputation as a recalcitrant coalition partner. During the 2002-5 government Portas caused the government many headaches and often caused bouts of government infighting.

He threatened to pull the plug on the current government in 2013, resigning in objection to the latest round of austerity. To keep him and his party in government he was promoted from foreign minister to Deputy Prime Minister with oversight over economic policy.

The CDS-PP is widely seen as having influence beyond its size in government.

The party is, like the PSD, principally strong in the North of Portugal, the conservative heartland of the country. It is popular with farmers, entrepreneurs and managers. Its voters are a fairly disloyal bunch and as the party is ideologically close to the PSD tend to float between the two parties depending on how well each is doing.

The party is currently polling very poorly on the back of opposition to austerity amongst its voters. This is probably a motivating factor behind the joint list this year.

The CDS-PP is a mildly Eurosceptic party. It opposed the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s, for this it was briefly kicked out of the European People’s Party.

Both the PSD and the CDS-PP are currently members of the European People’s Party. Oddly the CDS-PP never seems to have even flirted with joining the European Conservatives and Reformists even though the ECR would seem to be a better match for the more conservative and Eurosceptic party.

Oddly the CDS-PP is actually the more loyal to the EPP in voting stats, however, voting alongside the EPP 96.9% of the time compared to 96.6% for the PSD. This is a helpful reminder that the two are not really all that different.


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