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Portugal - 1985 - AnÝbal Cavaco Silva

AnÝbal Cavaco SilvaThe PSD began its political ascent in the 1985 parliamentary elections. As the senior partner in the coalition and with its leader Soares as prime minister, the PS was blamed by voters for the failures of the fallen government; it polled only 20.8 percent of the vote, compared with 36.3 percent in 1983. Despite its participation in the government, the PSD won more votes than ever before, 29.9 percent, and for the first time was the party with the most parliamentary seats. Silva spent ten years as head of government when he succeeded in modernising significantly the economy and Portuguese society.

Much of the PSD's success was due to its new leader, AnÝbal Cavaco Silva, who waged a clever campaign and presented his party in a new light. His personal qualities of austerity, probity, and competence appealed to many Portuguese, who saw in him, an economist and former minister of finance, someone who could deal with the country's serious problems.

Cavaco Silva formed a minority single-party government with himself as prime minister and managed to remain in power for nearly a year and a half. He was fortunate in that painful economic decisions made by the previous government began to bear fruit during his time in office. Portugal's accession to the EC at the beginning of 1986 also benefited the country; the first of the organization's extensive aid packages began to improve Portugal's backward infrastructure almost immediately. When a motion of censure brought down the PSD government in the spring of 1987, Soares, elected president in early 1986, decided to call new elections in July 1987 rather than form another weak single- party or coalition government. Since the restoration of democracty in 1974, no government had been able to survive a full four year term of office.

The improving economy and the feeling on the part of many Portuguese that the PSD was taking their country in the right direction allowed the Party to win an absolute parliamentary majority in the national elections of 1987. The 50.2 percent of the vote gave the party a solid parliamentary majority, the first in the new democracy, and permitted the formation of a strong single-party government. Cavaco Silva's government also became the first to serve out the entire four-year legislative term. In 1991 Cavaco Silva led his party to a second victory in which it again won more than 50 percent of the vote and 135 seats in the 230-seat parliament.

For many observers, the PSD's electoral successes and the stability of the Cavaco Silva government indicated that Portugal's new democracy, the Second Republic as it is often called, had at last taken root. During the first decade of the new political system, there were numerous weak governments, and four national elections were called because no effective governing coalitions were available. This instability caused some observers to fear that Portugal's second attempt at parliamentary democracy might eventually prove as unsuccessful as was the First Republic.

The Portuguese, who are used to appointing their President in the first round of the election, did so again on 22 January 2006, electing Anibal Cavaco Silva (Social Democrat Party PSD) as Head of State. He is the first liberal President since the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974 that heralded the fall of the dictatorship established by Antonio Oliveira Salazar in 1932.

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