“What use is a President who neither speaks nor acts?” This question was raised by Mário Soares, founder of the Socialist Party (SP) and former Prime Minister (1976-1978, 1983-1985) and President (1986-1996) of Portugal. Now, though, members of opposition parties are accusing President Cavaco Silva, former member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), of acting like the president of the PSD party and not as a president of all the Portuguese.
In Portugal it is common practice that a president-elect gives up his/her party membership before assuming office. So, Portuguese presidents are formally non-partisan. Yet, President Cavaco Silva’s “non-partisanship” has been subject of much discussion. Critics have accused the President of being silent about a number of key issues and interpret his inactivity as a form of political support for the government headed by Prime Minister Passos Coelho, leader of the PSD party to which he belonged.
In September 2014 the Ministry of Education made an error which led to the incorrect allocation of 880 teachers to secondary schools. The direct consequence was that thousands of pupils throughout Portugal were without teachers for over a month. Only after criticism in the media about the President’s silence on the issue did Cavaco Silva call for “serious reflection” about the teacher allocation model.
In the same month the “Citius” computer system used by the Ministry of Justice failed to become operational, leading to a partial paralysis of the country’s Court system for one and a half months. The SP demanded the resignation of the Minister of Justice, Paula Teixeira da Cruz (PSD). The leader of the new Democratic Republican Party (PRD) and Member of the European Parliament, António Marinho e Pinto, condemned the President’s “deafening silence”, accusing him of behaving more like the president of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) than as a president of all Portuguese citizens.
On 17 November Interior Minister Miguel Macedo stepped down over an investigation into alleged corruption linked to the issuing of so-called “golden visas” to wealthy foreigners. Macedo became the fourth minister to resign in the centre-right PSD-CDS-PP coalition government since it took office in June 2011. In 2013, the “Annus Horribilis” for Prime Minister Passos Coelho, no fewer than three ministers resigned: the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Miguel Relvas (PSD), the Minister of Finance, Vítor Gaspar (independent), and the Minister of Economy, Álvaro Santos Pereira (PSD). The latter did not ask for his resignation but was replaced by António Pires de Lima (CDS-PP) in a cabinet reshuffle in 24 July 2013.
The resignation of the Interior Minister Macedo led the opposition to ask for a cabinet reshuffle. Yet, Macedo was replaced by Anabela Rodrigues (again, an independent), the first female Interior Minister of Portugal. So far, the President has refrained from commenting on the corruption scandal that allegedly involves the head of Portugal’s border agency and the president of the registration and notary institute.
The Constitution states that a president cannot dissolve parliament during the first six months after a parliamentary election. In other words, snap elections would deprive the president of this power at an earlier stage. President Cavaco Silva has not called for early elections. On 8 November he announced that parliamentary elections are to be held between 14 September and 14 October 2015.
 Novais, J. R. (2007) Semipresidencialismo. Coimbra: Edições Almedina