Members take their places in the Plenary in the manner agreed by the President of the Assembleia da República and the parliamentary leaders. There are seats in the chamber reserved for the members of the Government.
At the start of the legislature, the Assembly elects its President, as well as the remaining members of the Bureau, and establishes the list of specialist standing committees, although this may be amended later by decision made in the Plenary.
The President, who is elected by absolute majority of Members in exercise of their functions, is responsible for representing the Assembleia, chairing the Bureau, conducting parliamentary proceedings, setting the order of business after consulting the Conference of Leaders, signing decrees and other documents issued in the name of the Assembleia da República and overseeing the Assembleia’s administration.
The President of the Assembleia da República also has the competence to provisionally substitute the President of the Republic.
The Bureau comprises the President, four Vice-Presidents, four Secretaries and four Vice-Secretaries. It is elected for the duration of the legislature. It is the Bureau’s responsibility to declare a loss of seat if incurred by any Member, to guarantee the full performance of secretariat services and to assist the President with his or her duties.
The President of the Assembleia da República chairs the Conference of Leaders, the body that represents the parliamentary groups to establish the schedules for debates in the Plenary and decide on any matters regarding the functioning of the Assembleia da República. The parliamentary group representatives have the same number of votes as the number of Members they represent. The Government has the right to be represented at these meetings.
The Standing Committee functions during periods when the Assembleia da República is not in full session or has been dissolved, and in the other cases laid down by the Constitution.
The Standing Committee is chaired by the President of the Assembleia da República and also comprises the Vice-Presidents and Members appointed by all the parties that hold seats in the Assembleia da República, in accordance with their proportional share of the seats.
The specialist standing committees and their specific competences are established at the beginning of each legislature by Plenary decision following a proposal by the President of the Assembleia da República, who first consults the Conference of Leaders. The composition of each committee is proportional to each parliamentary group’s share of the seats.
The standing committees’ competences include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Considering legislative initiatives and issuing opinions on the general principles;
- Voting on the details of texts that the Plenary has passed on the general principles and establishing the final wording;
- Holding hearings with members of the Government and any citizens or public or private bodies that are relevant to the ongoing legislative procedure or to the scrutiny of the activity of the Government and the Administration;
- Supervising, considering and pronouncing on Portugal’s participation in the process of constructing the European Union;
- Considering petitions;
- Gathering information on political and administrative problems and providing the Assembleia with the elements necessary to consider the acts of the Government and the Public Administration;
- Checking that the Government and the Public Administration comply with the laws and resolutions of the Assembleia da República;
- Proposing to the President of the Assembleia da República that the Plenary hold targeted debates;
- Considering questions relating to the Rules of Procedure and mandates.
The Conference of Parliamentary Committee Chairpersons regularly monitors the committee’s activities.
The conference is responsible for:
- Coordinating the functional organisation and technical support for parliamentary committees;
- Evaluating the general conditions of the legislative procedure;
- At the start of each legislative session, considering and approving progress reports on the adoption and entry into force of laws and their regulation, including compliance with the respective deadlines, and the report on compliance with the obligatory submission of information to the Assembleia by other bodies;
- In relation to laws that have been passed, determining which shall be the object of a qualitative analysis of their contents, the resources allocated to their implementation, and their practical effects.