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Social Democratic Party
Partido Social Democrata
Leader Manuela Ferreira Leite
Founded 6 May 1974
Headquarters Rua de Sao Caetano 9, Lisbon
Newspaper Povo Livre
Membership 150,901
Ideology Liberal conservatism,
Christian democracy
Political position Centre-right
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
European affiliation European People's Party
European Parliament Group European People's Party
Official colours Orange
Politics of Portugal
Political parties

The Social Democratic Party (Portuguese: Partido Social Democrata, pronounced [pɐɾˈtidu susiˈaɫ dɨmuˈkɾatɐ]) is a liberal conservative and Christian-democratic[1] political party in Portugal. It is commonly known by its initials, PSD, however on voting ballots its acronym appears as PPD/PSD, the first three letters coming from the party's initial name, Partido Popular Democrático (Democratic People's Party).

The party has 81 of the 230 seats in the Assembly of the Republic, and has lost the most recent Portuguese legislative election. The current leader is Manuela Ferreira Leite, who was elected on May 31, 2008.

The party's name can be misleading: although its first official political position, after its foundation as the People's Democratic Party, was centre-left and adhered to social democracy and populism, it is nowadays a party of the centre-right and does not advocate social democracy in any sense of the term. However the party still adheres to populism and is still its main unifying ideology[2]. The party left the Liberal International in 1996 and their delegates to the European Parliament have, since the late 1990s, sat with the European People's Party (EPP) Group, along with European conservative and Christian-democratic parties. Previously, the PSD had belonged the to European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party.

The party publishes the weekly Povo Livre (Free People) newspaper.



The Social Democratic Party was born on May 6, 1974, when Francisco Sá Carneiro, Francisco Pinto Balsemão and Joaquim Magalhães Mota publicly announced the formation of what was then called PPD - Democratic People's Party (Portuguese: Partido Popular Democrático). On May 15, the party's first headquarters were inaugurated in Largo do Rato, Lisbon. This was followed, on June 24, with the formation of the first Political Committee, consisting of Francisco Sá Carneiro, Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Joaquim Magalhães Mota, Barbosa de Melo, Mota Pinto, Montalvão Machado, Miguel Veiga, Ferreira Júnior, António Carlos Lima, António Salazar Silva, Jorge Correia da Cunha, Jorge Figueiredo Dias and Jorge Sá Borges.

The "Povo Livre" publication was founded, its first issue being published on July 13, 1974, lead by its first two directors, Manuel Alegria and Rui Machete. PPD's first major meeting was held in "Pavilhão dos Desportos", Lisbon, on October 25, and a month later, the party's first official congress would take place.

On January 17, 1975, 6300 signatures were sent to the Supreme Court so that the party could be approved as a legitimate political entity, which happened a mere 8 days later.

Alberto João Jardim was the co-founder of the Madeiran branch of PSD, and governed the autonomous archipelago for decades running as a member of the party.

In Government and Opposition

The Social Democratic Party participated in a number of coalition governments in Portugal between 1974 and 1979, following the Carnation Revolution. This is seen as a transitional period in Portuguese politics, in which political institutions were built and took time to stabilize. In 1979, the PSD formed an electoral alliance, known as the Democratic Alliance (AD), with the Democratic Social Centre (now called the People's Party, CDS-PP) and a couple of smaller, right-wing parties. The AD won the parliamentary elections towards the end of 1979, and the PSD leader, Francisco Sá Carneiro, became Prime Minister. The AD increased its parliamentary majority in new elections called for 1980, but was devastated by the death of Sá Caneiro in an aircrash on December 4, 1980. Francisco Pinto Balsemão took over the leadership of both the Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance, as well as the Prime Ministership, but lacking Sá Carneiro's charisma, he was unable to rally popular support.

The Democratic Alliance was dissolved in 1983, and in parliamentary elections that year, the PSD lost to the Socialist Party (PS). Falling short of a majority, however, the Socialists formed a grand coalition, known as the Central Block, with the PSD. Many right-wingers in the PSD, including Aníbal Cavaco Silva, opposed participation in the PS-led government, and so, when Cavaco Silva was elected leader of the party on 2 June 1985, the coalition was doomed.

The PSD won a plurality (but not a majority) in the general election of 1985, and Cavaco Silva became Prime Minister. Economic liberalization and tax cuts ushered in several years of economic growth, and early elections held in 1987 resulted in a landslide victory for the PSD, who captured 50.2% percent of the popular vote and 148 of the 250 parliamentary seats - the first time that any political party had mustered an absolute majority. They won the 1991 election almost as easily, but continuing high levels of unemployment eroded the popularity of the Cavaco Silva government and the PSD lost the 1995 and 1999 elections. They made a comeback in 2002, however; despite falling short of a majority, the PSD won enough seats to form a coalition with the CDS-PP, and the PSD leader, José Manuel Durão Barroso, became Prime Minister. Durão Barroso later resigned his post to become President of the European Commission, leaving the way for Pedro Santana Lopes, a man with whom he was frequently at odds, to become leader of the party and Prime Minister.

In the parliamentary election held on 20 February 2005, Santana Lopes led the PSD to its worst defeat since 1983. With a negative swing of more than 12% percent, the party won only 75 seats, a loss of 30. The rival Socialist Party had won an absolute majority, and remained in government in the 2009 parliamentary election albeit without an absolute majority, leaving the PSD in opposition.

The PSD-supported candidate Aníbal Cavaco Silva won the Portuguese presidential elections in 2006.

In the European Parliament election held on 7 June 2009, the PSD defeated the governing socialists capturing 31.7% of the popular vote and electing 8 MEPs, while the Socialist Party only won 26.5% of the popular vote and elected 7 MEPs.

Although this was expected to be a "redrawing" of the "electoral map", the PSD was still defeated later that year, though the PS lost it's majority.


The PSD is frequently referred to as a party that is not ideology-based but rather a "power party" ("partido do poder")[3], which adopts a functional big tent party strategy to win elections[3]. Due to this strategy, which most trace to Cavaco Silva's leadership[4], the party is made up of many factions, mostly centre-right (including liberal democrats and neoconservatives) as well as quasi-social-democrats and former Communists:

  • Portuguese Social democrats: the only faction when the party was created, throughout the party's history rightist politicians joined them to have a greater chance of gaining power and influencing the country's politics (see Liberals, Conservatives, Right-wing populists and Neoliberals). They don't follow traditional social democracy but "Portuguese Social democracy" as defined by Sá Carneiro's actions and writings, which includes a degree of centrist and leftist populism. They followed a kind of anti-class struggle party/cross-class party strategy. All the other members of the party claim to follow this line. Among its representatives were most of the leaders between Francisco Sá Carneiro and Cavaco Silva, Alberto João Jardim (also a founding member and an anti-neoliberal) and to an extent Luís Filipe Menezes (who called the PSD the "moderate left party"[5] and identified himself with a centre-left matrix and an united left strategy and defended a more open party on issues like abortion[6]). The Portuguese social-democrats are centered around the Grupo da Boavista (Boavista Group).
  • European-style Social-democrats: follow traditional social democracy. They share with the Portuguese Social democrats their presence at the creation of the party and “a non marxist progressivist line”[7]. Many of them (like former party leader António Sousa Franco and party founder Magalhães Mota, but also like writer and feminist Natália Correia) supported the Opções Inadiáveis (Pressing Options) manifesto[8], and then left to create the Independent Social Democrat Association (Associação Social Democrata Independente, ASDI)[9] and the Social Democrat Movement (Movimento Social Democrata, MSD)[10], forming electoral coalitions and later joining the social-democratic Socialist Party during the 1970s, sometimes also taking part in the Democratic Renovator Party. A later example of an European-style Social democrat leaving the party for the Socialist Party is activist and politician Helena Roseta. The ones who stayed in the party adapted to the right-wing alliances of the party or Portuguese Social democracy. They today include former communists who adopted centre-left democratic socialism, like Zita Seabra. Ironically, both Social democrat factions were represented in the last internal elections by Manuela Ferreira Leite, arguably the most economically neoliberal and socially conservative party leader (often being compared to Margaret Thatcher).
  • Agrarianism: the other main faction when the party was created. The PSD was always more sucessfull in the Northern and rural areas of the country. When Sousa Franco and his SPD-inspired social democrats started their break with the rest of the party he referred to a division between «uma ala rural, liderada por Sá carneiro (sic), e uma ala urbana, mais moderada e verdadeiramente social-democrata, próxima das posições de Helmut Schmidt.» ("a rural wing, led by Sá carneiro, and an urban wing, more moderate and truly social democratic, close to the positions of Helmut Schmidt")[11] Due to the electoral influence of ruralism on the PSD's politics they may be seen inside of or influencing most factions.
  • Liberals (Classical and Social): due to the Salazarist connotation of the term “right-wing[12], and terms connected with the right like “liberal” or “conservative”, after the Carnation Revolution, and the general failure of European Liberal parties to win elections without coalitions in recent times[13], no specific Liberal or Conservative parties were formed in post-1974 Portugal (except the experiences of the Catholic Action monarchists who opposed the People's Monarchist Party and created a Liberal Party in 1974[14] and the centrist liberal Democratic Renovator Party), so they started working inside the SDP. This strategy of joining “socialism and liberalism under the same hat”[3] was especially successful during Cavaco Silva’s leadership, when the party gave up its candidacy to the Socialist International and became member of the Liberal International, the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and the Liberal and Democratic Reformist Group (after 1994 called European Liberal Democrat and Reform Group and currently called Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), leaving the international and the European group in 1996 to join the Christian Democrat International (today Centrist Democrat International), the European People's Party and the European People's Party-European Democrats (since 2009 the Parliamentary Group of the European People's Party). Since then the Liberal-Social democrat rift (or even the Liberal-Conservative-Social democrat rift) has plagued the party’s cohesion and actions[15][16]. Durão Barroso (a former revolutionary Maoist during his youth who switched sides during the 1980s) is sometimes referred to as the most pure liberal of the party.[17] In terms of social liberals, some try to claim the traditions of social democracy and social liberalism to the SDP[18], and social liberalism is sometimes identified with the social market economy tradition the party traditionally supported[19]. Even members of the Social Liberal Movement admit the traditional and current presence of social liberals (and other liberals) on the SDP[20].
  • Right-wing Populists: to be distinguished from radical right-wing populists, the centre and centre-left populists among the social democrats (like João Jardim and Sá Carneiro) and the overlapers of the party (like Cavaco Silva), and the euro-skeptic populists of the Democratic and Social Centre–People’s Party (DSC-PP). They are essentially liberal conservative and conservative liberal and moderate on social-economic affairs, religious conservatives on cultural affairs and national conservatives on foreign affairs. The tendency's main representative is Pedro Santana Lopes. Though the main right-wing populists were present at the founding of the party (like Santana Lopes), they were clearly right-wing, recruited when their abilities were noticed in educated circles and universities[21], with minor agreements with Sá Carneiro's philosophy. Frequently, as the SDP is one of the parties which are currently capable of winning elections, right-wing populists from the DSC-PP join the party's lists to have a change of becoming or influencing government. Luís Filipe Meneses is frequently described as a populist but he tried to lead the party back to a “left” line[22], and doesn’t identify or act like the liberal conservative/conservative liberal populists.
  • Conservatives: due to the post-revolutionary opposition to terms connected with the right like "conservative" (see above in liberal) no specifically Conservative party was founded in Portugal, so conservatives acted inside the DSC-PP and the SDP. They are frequently linked with the Neoliberals of the party. Pure conservatives are rare in the party though, as the usual partisan or politician of the party is moderate on the economy but socially conservative. One of the rare exceptions of a pure (who is not either a conservative socially but not fiscally or fiscally but not socially, like most SDP partisans) in this party was former party member and MP Vasco Pulido Valente, who is highly elitist and a cultural purist (unlike most of the party's partisans, who have various degrees of populism or meritocratism), highly conservative and culturally traditionalist[23].
  • Neoconservatives: mostly former communists and leftists who supported the policies of the Bush Administration and defend similar views in Portuguese politics. The main exemple is José Pacheco Pereira[24][25] (though his support of the Bush doctrine on the Invasion of Iraq is sometimes challenged[26]. They are frequently referred to as "Cavaco-ists" due to their support of its legacy and the candidates representative of it, like Cavaco Silva himself and Ferreira Leite, defending the position that they should take a hard stance on the Left and its social liberalism[27]).
  • Neoliberals: Neoliberal tendencies were introduced in Portuguese economy by Cavaco Silva, removing socialism from the constitution and finishing the de-collectivization of the economy started with Sá Carneiro. Despite this Cavaco never employed a totally Reaganite or Thatcherite strategy, always maintaining a social democrat matrix and many (right and left-wing) populist and neo-Keynesian policies, descriving himself as a neokeynesian and not as a liberal, and writing a Keynesian thesis in York University[28]. One example of the inconsistant neo-liberalism of the SDP is a sentence once said by Alberto João Jardim: "aqueles rapazes de Chicago têm umas ideias engraçadas, mas quando chega a hora das eleições ainda o velho keynesianismo é que conta." (“those Chicago Boys have some funny ideas, but when election time arrives the old Keynesianism is still what counts”)[29]. Cavaco Silva and Durão Barroso are both sometimes referred to as the closest to neo-liberal leaders of the party[30]. The main pure representative of the streak is Manuela Ferreira Leite, but even she has adopted social democrat political strategies, called herself a «social democrat» and explained «I'm not certainly liberal, I'm also not populist» («Não sou com certeza liberal, também não sou populista»)[31] and leaded the social democratic faction during internal party rifts, though she accepts the nickname "Portuguese iron lady" and comparisons to Thatcher if «[it] means (...) an enormous intransigance on values and in principles, of not abdicating from these values and from these principles and of continuing my way independently of the popularity of my actions and the efects on my image» («significa (...) uma intransigência enorme nos valores e nos princípios, de não abdicar desses valores e desses princípios e de prosseguir o meu caminho independentemente da popularidade das acções e dos efeitos na minha imagem»)[31]. The main group (officially party-less) associated with the neoliberal faction of the SDP is the Projecto Farol (Lighthouse Project)[32].
  • Overlappers: the average SDP voter and partisan since Cavaco Silva’s leadership. Cavaco himself, though a self-described Neo-Keynesian, an early member of the party since its centre-left days and a man with social liberal and centrist populist policy tendencies, he is personally a conservative (opposing same-sex marriage[33] and abortion) and a practicing Catholic[34]. As such Cavacoism should be considered a "hybrid" or a political syncretism, being well described as "the hypocrisy of a social democracy which is liberal, of a centrism which is right-wing, of a perfectly conservative revolutionary left of a political form which never corresponded to the content. Mixing the worst of capitalism with the worst of socialism, that is, the bank mentality and bureaucratic communism, so we generated a mystical economy, where you're a liberal when the state orders to pay taxes, you claim yourself against free competition, when we pretend aid or state exemptions. The model becomes the one of the businessman who gets rich, that new version of the patos bravos [literally "wild ducks", a Portuguese term for construction contractors who work for the public sector and get rich easily] that trade the Avenidas Novas [New Avenues] for the Amoreiras complex" ("a hipocrisia de uma social-democracia que é liberal, de um centrismo que é de direita e de uma esquerda revolucionária perfeitamente conservadora de uma forma política que nunca correspondeu ao conteúdo. Misturando o pior do capitalismo com o pior do socialismo, isto é, a mentalidade bancária e o comunismo burocrático, gerámos assim uma economia mística, onde ora se é liberal quando o Estado manda pagar impostos, ora se clama contra a livre concorrência, quando se pretendem ajudas ou isenções estaduais. O modelo passa a ser o homem de sucesso que enriquece, essa nova versão dos patos bravos que troca as Avenidas Novas pelo complexo das Amoreiras"), a system which both makes structural reforms and defends progress and development but preserves the traditional social conventions [35]. A similar case is Vasco Graça Moura, who claims to be an economic social democrat but opposes gay people serving in the military and is a self-described "centre-left reactionary"[36]. The overlappers are mainly represented in the forums gathered by the District of Oporto section of the party, which during the 2009 European elections tried to gather the ideas of the liberals/social conservative-economic liberals and the centrists.
  • Centrists: not to be confused with the overlapers. Still indecisive between traditional social democracy, Portuguese social democracy, social liberalism or any other kind of centrism. They are closer to the centre-left origins of the party and proud of them[37]. The main representative of this faction his Pedro Passos Coelho, who already stated he is neither left nor right but the real issues are between old and new[38], though he was for unknown reasons identified with the liberal (in the more conservative-liberal European sense) faction, though he recalled the many meanings of liberal and recalled the Left liberalism of the United States and the Democratic Party [39]. The main centrist group inside the party is the think tank Construir Ideias (Building Ideas), lead by Passos Coelho[32]. They mix calls to privatization with others to more social justice and strategic governmental involvement in the economy. This faction is in constant rift with the more right-wing ones, who have been leading the party for a long time, over the future of the party and its future ideological and philosophical alignments.

Election results, Portuguese parliamentary elections 1976-2009

Year Party Leader Number of votes Percentage of votes Number of members
in the Assembly of the Republic
Position in Parliament
Francisco Sá Carneiro
Main opposition party
Francisco Sá Carneiro
Francisco Sá Carneiro
Carlos Mota Pinto
Government/Coalition with the Socialist Party
Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Fernando Nogueira
Main opposition party
Durão Barroso
Main opposition party
Durão Barroso
Pedro Santana Lopes
Main opposition party
Manuela Ferreira Leite
Main opposition party

List of leaders

Prime ministers

Presidents of the Republic

See also


  1. ^ Parties and Elections Europe: Portugal
  2. ^ "O Populismo Laranja (The Orange Populism)".  (Portuguese), o António Maria website, a Word Press blog, third paragraph: «Em primeiro lugar, porque a matriz ideológica e social do PPD-PSD é geneticamente populista, na modulação muito própria que lhe foi dada desde o início por Francisco Sá Carneiro» («In the first place, because the ideological and social matrix of the PDP-SDP is geneticaly populist, in the very specific modulation that was given to it since the beginning by Francisco Sá Carneiro»)
  3. ^ a b c Ideologia do PSD: entre Nacionalistas Croatas e Camponeses da Lituânia
  4. ^ O PSD no seu labirinto, A Mão Invisível
  5. ^ O partido da esquerda democrática
  6. ^ Luís Filipe Menezes: "Tenho capacidade para penetrar em sectores que tradicionalmente não votam PSD"
  7. ^ Povo Livre, first issue
  8. ^ Opções Inadiáveis
  9. ^ Associação Social Democrata Independente
  10. ^ Movimento Social Democrata
  11. ^ Partido Popular Democrático Partido Social Democrático
  12. ^ the only exception of a self proclaimed "Party of the Portuguese Right" (until 1979 the Movement for the Independence and National Reconstruction (Movimento para a Independência e Reconstrução Nacional, MIRN), a far right and clearly pro-salazarist party led by Kaúlza de Arriaga. see [1] and [2]
  13. ^ As ameaças ao modelo social europeu vs. a incapacidade dos partidos liberais venceram eleições: o dilema do PSD (portuguese), «E na história democrática da Europa Ocidental são raros os exemplos de partidos liberais que lideraram governos. Alguns participaram em coligações de governo, mas raramente como partido mais votado. Nem os conservadores ingleses, nem os democratas cristãos alemães nem a social democracia escandinava ou os populares espanhóis são partidos que tenham uma plataforma liberal. A democracia cristã foi seguramente capaz de vencer eleições. Bem como o populismo. O liberalismo não. Neste momento em o FDP alemão tem 17% das intenções de voto, pode aspirar a uma coligação com Angela Merkel da CDU. Mas em que a CDU vence as eleições. E o FDP é claramente o mais bem posicionado partido liberal no quadro europeu da actualidade.» «And in the democratic history of Western Europe it are rare the exemples of liberal parties that lead governments. Some participate in government coalitions, but rarely as the most voted party. Neither the British Conservative Party, neither the German German Christian Democratic Union neither the scandinavian social democracy or the Spanish Popular Party are parties which have a liberal platform. Christian democracy was safely capable of winning elections. As was populism. But not Liberalism. In this moment in (sic) the German FDP has the support of 17% of voters, may aspire to a coalition with CDU's Angela Merkel. But in which the CDU wins the elections. And the FDP is clearly the most well positioned liberal party in the current european context»
  14. ^ Partido Liberal 1974
  15. ^ Sociais Democratas & Liberais: o PSD impossível
  16. ^ Liberais vs. conservadores
  17. ^ Europa dos Governos e dos Estados ... A Europa de Sócrates & Barroso
  18. ^ O PSD e o Futuro, 2008-04-28 - Mário Duarte
  19. ^ Folha laranja, Juventude Social Democrata, Alges
  20. ^ Mais outro liberal que está perdido
  21. ^ compare with Santana Lopes' description of his recruting in Lisbon University by Sá Carneiro on late night talk show 5 Para a Meia-Noite, RTP 2, September 2, 2009
  22. ^ Menezes candidato para fazer renovação, 23 FEV 05
  23. ^ O jogral dos tempos que correm
  24. ^ renas e veados: Alinhamentos neo-conservadores
  25. ^ Vanunu
  26. ^ Manifesto Nem Pacheco, Nem Soares
  27. ^ A tradução de Pacheco Pereira do discurso suicida de Cavaco
  28. ^ O esquizofrénico livro do Professor Cavaco Silva, Pura Economia
  29. ^ As ameaças ao modelo social europeu vs. a incapacidade dos partidos liberais venceram eleições: o dilema do PSD
  30. ^ Direita Neoliberal ou Conservadora, jornal I online
  31. ^ a b Correio da Manhã
  32. ^ a b PSD: Cinco grupos a elaborar programas. Qual o aquele em que o país deve acreditar?, Quarta-feira, 27 de Maio de 2009, O valor das ideias
  33. ^ É tão bom ter um Cavaco em Belém, Paulo Gaião, 2008-10-24 01:36, Semanário
  34. ^ EXP-TC não dá razão a Cavaco, Agosto 31, 2009, Autor: Filipe Santos Costa
  35. ^ 1962, José Adelino Maltez, História do Presente, 2006
  36. ^ late night talk show 5 Para a Meia-Noite, RTP 2, July 28th 2009
  37. ^ during his interview with Mário Crespo, the main centrist, Passos Coelho, referred the return to social democratic party roots as essential.
  38. ^ (2732) O COMPLEXO DE ESQUERDA, TOMAR PARTIDO Sexta-feira, 2 de Maio de 2008
  39. ^ PSD: Liberalismo de Passos Coelho e impostos no centro do debate da TVI

External links

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