The Role of the Non-Partisan Movements in Democracy. The Portuguese Case

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Global Journals


- Since its birth in Greece, democracy has evolved mainly with regard to the role people or citizens must play in the system. That evolution explains not only the various modalities of democracy but also the formation of political parties and their change over time. There is no democracy without the parties, but the parties are not the owners of the democratic system, and this encourages the appearance of non-partisan movements that wish to be part of the power play. In Portugal, during Salazar’s dictatorship, political parties were forbidden. After returning to democracy, Portuguese law currently does not allow regional or local parties, as political parties need to act at the national level. However, the Constitution stipulated that non-partisan groups had the right to present lists to the lowest level of local power, the parish council. Despite the official constraint, these groups accepted the challenge, and their power and influence have increased since the first local election in 1976, and it was no wonder that, after the 1997 constitutional revision, the law had recognized them the right to apply for all the organs of the local power. Later, due to political dissents, some politicians decided to constitute non-partisan movements to run against the party that they had just abandoned. Nowadays, these groups rule over 17 of the 308 municipal councils, namely Porto, the second most important city in Portugal. Moreover, the nonpartisan movements are the third political force concerning local power, ruling over more than 400 parish councils. However, these groups cannot present lists to the central power, the National Assembly. This paper has a twofold aim. On the one hand, it analyses the evolution of the participation of non-partisan movements in the electoral acts, their influence in the political life in Portugal, their complaints against the electoral law, and their fight trying to change it. On the other hand, it sets out to explain the reaction of the parties towards the non-partisan groups and reflects on the modifications that these groups bring to democracy, adding a richness and depth to politics that has an impact on it.


Global Journal of Human Social Sciences