The Assembleia da República as a body that exercises sovereign power
The Portuguese Parliament is formed of a single chamber of Members and is called the Assembleia da República.
It is one of two elected bodies that exercise sovereign power established in the Constitution, alongside the President of the Republic, and its constitutional role is to be the “assembly that represents all Portuguese citizens”.
As a chamber of Members elected by universal, direct and secret suffrage, the Assembleia da República represents all Portuguese citizens, acting in their name and accountable to them.
Like the other bodies that exercise sovereign power defined by the Constitution – the President of the Republic, the Government and the Courts – it is endowed with sovereign powers of the state, particularly in relation to the political system since its primary function is to represent the citizens. For this reason, it is the main legislative body, the basis for forming the Government, and the body before which the executive is held accountable.
It has exclusive legislative competence for matters determined in the Constitution (as well as being able to legislate alongside other bodies on all other matters, except those regarding the organisation and functioning of the Government). It is also assigned the tasks of scrutinising the activity of the Government and the Administration and ensuring compliance with the Constitution and laws.
The relationship between the Assembleia da República and the remaining bodies that exercise sovereign power is constitutionally bound by the principle of separation of powers and interdependence of those bodies. This means that the sovereign powers of the state are divided and distributed into different bodies, with cooperation and reciprocal oversight procedures among them.
This principle is materialised in the Assembleia da República’s relations with the President of the Republic in the President’s power to dissolve the Parliament, his or her ability to veto decrees of the Assembleia, and the President’s installation before the Parliament. It is also reflected in the need for authorisation from the Assembleia for the President to leave the country or declare a state of siege or emergency, and in the possibility for the Assembleia to force the enactment of a decree that has previously been vetoed.
As well as having its activity subjected to scrutiny by the Assembleia da República, the Government is accountable to the Parliament and depends on its confidence: it presents its programme to the Assembleia, and it may be rejected, leading the Government to be removed. The Government is also removed if motions of no confidence are approved or motions of confidence are rejected. The Government further requires the Assembleia’s intervention to pass its budget bill.
The jurisdictional function is exclusively entrusted to the Courts, which are required to “administer justice in the name of the people”. The Assembleia da República elects 7 members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the state body that has the competence to appoint, place, transfer and promote judges in the courts, as well as carrying out disciplinary actions. The Assembleia da República also elects 4 members of the Supreme Council of the Administrative and Tax Courts (the management and disciplinary body for judges in the administrative and tax jurisdiction) and 5 members of the Supreme Council of the Public Prosecutors’ Office (the body with disciplinary and management competences for Public Prosecutors’ Office staff), which gives them democratic legitimacy without compromising the separation of judicial and legislative powers.
The Assembleia da República, the fundamental body of the constitutional and representative system, expresses the will and interests of all Portuguese citizens in its decisions. All constituencies are represented within it, along with the plural political currents put to the vote that have obtained parliamentary representation.
The Assembleia represents all citizens, including non-electors, electors who did not vote and those who did not give their electoral support to the Members elected.
Rules of Procedure and the
Statute of Members establish the responsibilities and rules for the functioning of the Assembleia da República and the rights and duties of its Members.