Socialist Party / Partido Socialista

Socialist Party / Partido Socialista
   Although the Socialist Party's origins can be traced back to the 1850s, its existence has not been continuous. The party did not achieve or maintain a large base of support until after the Revolution of 25 April 1974. Historically, it played only a minor political role when compared to other European socialist parties.
   During the Estado Novo, the PS found it difficult to maintain a clandestine existence, and the already weak party literally withered away. Different groups and associations endeavored to keep socialist ideals alive, but they failed to create an organizational structure that would endure. In 1964, Mário Soares, Francisco Ramos da Costa, and Manuel Tito de Morais established the Portuguese Socialist Action / Acção Socialista Português (ASP) in Geneva, a group of individuals with similar views rather than a true political party. Most members were middle-class professionals committed to democratizing the nation. The rigidity of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) led some to join the ASP.
   By the early 1970s, ASP nuclei existed beyond Portugal in Paris, London, Rome, Brussels, Frankfurt, Sweden, and Switzerland; these consisted of members studying, working, teaching, researching, or in other activities. Extensive connections were developed with other foreign socialist parties. Changing conditions in Portugal, as well as the colonial wars, led several ASP members to advocate the creation of a real political party, strengthening the organization within Portugal, and positioning this to compete for power once the regime changed.
   The current PS was founded clandestinely on 19 April 1973, by a group of 27 exiled Portuguese and domestic ASP representatives at the Kurt Schumacher Academy of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bad Munstereifel, West Germany. The founding philosophy was influenced by nondogmatic Marxism as militants sought to create a classless society. The rhetoric was to be revolutionary to outflank its competitors, especially the PCP, on its left. The party hoped to attract reform-minded Catholics and other groups that were committed to democracy but could not support the communists.
   At the time of the 1974 revolution, the PS was little more than an elite faction based mainly among exiles. It was weakly organized and had little grassroots support outside the major cities and larger towns. Its organization did not improve significantly until the campaign for the April 1975 constituent elections. Since then, the PS has become very pragmatic and moderate and has increasingly diluted its socialist program until it has become a center-left party. Among the party's most consistent principles in its platform since the late 1970s has been its support for Portugal's membership in the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Union (EU), a view that clashed with those of its rivals to the left, especially the PCP. Given the PS's broad base of support, the increased distance between its leftist rhetoric and its more conservative actions has led to sharp internal divisions in the party. The PS and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) are now the two dominant parties in the Portuguese political party system.
   In doctrine and rhetoric the PS has undergone a de-Marxification and a movement toward the center as a means to challenge its principal rival for hegemony, the PSD. The uneven record of the PS in general elections since its victory in 1975, and sometimes its failure to keep strong legislative majorities, have discouraged voters. While the party lost the 1979 and 1980 general elections, it triumphed in the 1983 elections, when it won 36 percent of the vote, but it still did not gain an absolute majority in the Assembly of the Republic. The PSD led by Cavaco Silva dominated elections from 1985 to 1995, only to be defeated by the PS in the 1995 general elections. By 2000, the PS had conquered the commanding heights of the polity: President Jorge Sampaio had been reelected for a second term, PS prime minister António Guterres was entrenched, and the mayor of Lisbon was João Soares, son of the former socialist president, Mário Soares (1986-96).
   The ideological transformation of the PS occurred gradually after 1975, within the context of a strong PSD, an increasingly conservative electorate, and the de-Marxification of other European Socialist parties, including those in Germany and Scandinavia. While the PS paid less attention to the PCP on its left and more attention to the PSD, party leaders shed Marxist trappings. In the 1986 PS official program, for example, the text does not include the word Marxism.
   Despite the party's election victories in the mid- and late-1990s, the leadership discovered that their grasp of power and their hegemony in governance at various levels was threatened by various factors: President Jorge Sampaio's second term, the constitution mandated, had to be his last.
   Following the defeat of the PS by the PSD in the municipal elections of December 2001, Premier Antônio Guterres resigned his post, and President Sampaio dissolved parliament and called parliamentary elections for the spring. In the 17 March 2002 elections, following Guterres's resignation as party leader, the PS was defeated by the PSD by a vote of 40 percent to 38 percent. Among the factors that brought about the socialists' departure from office was the worsening post-September 11 economy and disarray within the PS leadership circles, as well as charges of corruption among PS office holders. However, the PS won 45 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections of 2005, and the leader of the party, José Sócrates, a self-described "market-oriented socialist" became prime minister.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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