Portugal country profile


Portugal, a country with a rich history of seafaring and discovery, looks out from the Iberian peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean.

When it handed over its last overseas territory, Macau, to Chinese administration in 1999, it brought to an end a long and sometimes turbulent era as a colonial power.

The roots of that era stretch back to the 15th century when Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama put to sea in search of a passage to India. By the 16th century these sailors had helped build a huge empire embracing Brazil as well as swathes of Africa and Asia. There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today.

For almost half of the 20th century Portugal was a dictatorship in which for decades Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the key figure.

This period was brought to an end in 1974 in a bloodless coup, picturesquely known as the Revolution of the Carnations, which ushered in a new democracy.



President: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

A veteran of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, Mr Rebelo de Sousa went on to have a high-profile career in journalism and broadcasting before being elected to the largely-ceremonial post of president in March 2016.

He stood as an independent, campaigning to heal the divisions caused by Portugal's 2011-2014 debt crisis and austerity measures, and beat the left-wing candidate Antonio Sampaio da Novoa in the first round.

Prime minister: Antonio Costa

Image source, Getty Images

Socialist leader Antonio Costa formed a left-wing coalition government in November 2015 after a month of political drama, amid expectations of an end to four years of fiscal austerity.

He joined forces with two far-left parties to oust the centre-right coalition of incumbent Pedro Passos Coelho, which topped the poll in inconclusive October parliamentary elections.

Born in 1961, Mr Costa is a veteran Socialist Party politician. He served as a minister twice before being elected mayor of the capital Lisbon in 2007, resigning to become the Socialists' candidate for the premiership in 2015.

The Socialists improved their tally of seats at the October 2019 elections to become the largest party in parliament, although falling short of a majority.

Mr Costa said he would seek again to form a coalition with other left-wing parties.


Image source, Getty Images

Portugal's commercial TVs have a lion's share of the viewing audience, and provide tough competition for the public broadcaster.

Public TV is operated by RTP. The main private networks are TVI and SIC. Multichannel TV is available via cable, satellite, digital terrestrial and internet protocol TV (IPTV). Cable is the dominant platform.

The switchover to digital TV was completed in 2012.

The public radio, RDP, competes with national commercial networks, Roman Catholic station Radio Renascenca and some 300 local and regional outlets.


Some key dates in Portugal's history:

1908 - King Carlos and eldest son assassinated in Lisbon. Second son Manuel becomes king.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
25th of April Bridge over the Tagus River, Lisbon

1910 - King Manuel II abdicates amid revolution; Portugal proclaimed a republic.

1911 - New constitution separates church from state. Manuel Jose de Arriaga elected first president of republic.

1916-18 - Portugal fights First World War on Allied side.

1926 - Military coup. General Antonio de Fragoso Carmona becomes president.

1928 - Carmona appoints Antonio de Oliveira Salazar minister of finance.

1932 - Salazar becomes prime minister, a post he will retain for 36 years, establishing authoritarian "Estado Novo" (New State) political system.

1936 - Salazar backs General Franco's nationalists in Spanish Civil War.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Revellers celebrate the feast of St Anthony, Lisbon's patron saint

1939-45 - Portugal maintains official neutrality during Second World War, but allows UK to use air bases in Azores.

1949 - Portugal becomes founding member of Nato.

1955 - Portugal joins United Nations.

1968 - Antonio Salazar dismissed from premiership after stroke; dies in 1970.

1974 - A near-bloodless military coup sparks a mass movement of civil unrest, paving the way for democracy. The 25 April coup becomes known as the Carnation Revolution.

1974-75 - Independence for Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola.

1982 - Military Council of the Revolution abolished, civilian government formally restored.

1986 - Portugal becomes member of EEC (later EU). Mario Soares elected president.

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Related Topics