The Republic’s King

Portugal is one of Europe’s oldest nations. It became a Kingdom when it split from the Kingdom of León in 1143. It has been a Republic since 1910. As in many other Republics there is a heir to the throne who claims to be the legitimate successor of the once upon a time King. Dom Duarte the Duke of Bragança is the Republic’s King to be.

The nineteenth century was also a time of agitation and revolts in Portugal. Portugal was a Kingdom during all of its history until the assassination of King Carlos I and his oldest son Luis Felipe on 1 February 1908. The assassination known as the Lisbon regicide was carefully planned and counted with the partial involvement of Carbonária, an anti-monarchy society allied with the Italian Carbonari. The assassinations put an end to the Monarchy which still survived until the 5 October 1910 Revolution when Portugal’s Republican Party successfully conducted a coup d’etat initiating a republican regime on the Iberian country which has remained ever since.

Similar changes in neighbouring Spain would take off in April 1931 when the Republican Parties obtained a majority in the municipal elections which triggered an exit from the country of King Alfonso XIII and the inauguration of the Spanish Second Republic on 14 April 1931.

Portugal remained a Republic during the rule of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar between 1932 and 1968, as Prime Minister of an authoritarian regime which he founded called Estado Novo. The death of Oliveira Salazar in 1970 and the final stages of the independence wars in Angola and Mozambique precipitated the fall of the dictatorial regime “Estado Novo” during the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974 and the transition to what is today the Portuguese democratic republican regime. Oliveira Salazar remains the greatest Portuguese today as per public support.

Portugal’s President of the Republic is chosen once every five years. The French used to choose their President once every seven years which they recently changed to five years in order to avoid cohabitation. A President of the Republic may hold its post for a maximum of ten years in Portugal and ailleurs.

However when the list of Presidents of the Republic is reviewed, Portugal shows very little choice. Most often a former Prime Minister runs for President of the Republic and gets elected. Would it be possible for an outsider to become President of the Republic, let’s say for instance for the late José Saramago or for coach José Mourinho (arguably Portugal’s best-known non-political individuals internationally)?

For instance out of Portugal’s four Presidents of the Republic inaugurated since the Carnation Revolution in 1975, two have previously been Prime Ministers, notably Mario Soares and the current President Anibal António Cavaco Silva.

About one out of three Portuguese supports the Monarchy today according to the Portuguese Casa Real. The only referendum that the Portuguese Constitution forbids is precisely that of republic vs. monarchy (Article 288: As leis de revisão constitucional terão de respeitar b) A forma republicana de governo). Today’s President of the Republic is not in dire straits. But Portugal and the political leadership in the country is in dire straits. The troika has stepped in and commands Portugal from Brussels and Washington. And the Portuguese remain afraid of Madrid’s centralism when Madrid has not shown any interest in Portugal in decades. To see it is to believe it.

Seen from abroad and particularly from Spain, Anibal António Cavaco Silva is an impeccable and intellectually gifted President of the Republic. Dr Cavaco Silva completed his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of York in the United Kingdom in 1973 and became Full Professor at Universidad Católica before being appointed President of the Republic. He is multilingual, contrary to any of the Prime Ministers inaugurated in Spain since Franco’s death (except for Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo who was not democratically elected but appointed in the aftermath of the 1981 coup d’etat). However Dr Cavaco Silva’s popularity is in free fall as it is that of many other Presidents and Premiers in the European Union including France’s François Hollande.

One hundred years after the Lisbon regicide of 1908, the Portuguese celebrated the anniversary with a gathering in Lisbon city center. Dom Duarte participated in an event with no official participation of the Portuguese Republic. The dilemma, the division moves on.

There is no doubt that Portugal is and should remain a Republic. But why wouldn’t a republic have a King? Reypública provides an answer to this dilemma, whether Dom Duarte who was born in 1945 or his 17-year oldest son Afonso could become King in our lifetime. To dream or not to dream, that is the question.

The Portuguese in the meantime will continue to be ruled by the troika from Brussels and Washington. José Manuel Durao Barroso, once Portugal’s Prime Minister and the ongoing President of the European Commission, continues to be the de-facto President although his residence is no longer Lisbon, but Brussels. Long live the King-to-be Dom Duarte de Bragança, whether he ascends to throne or not during his lifetime. If José Saramago was right we will see the Republic’s King taking over one day for the benefit of the Republic.