Mário Alberto Nobre Lopes Soares

(b. 1924)

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(b. Lisbon, 29 Dec. 1924)

Portuguese; Prime Minister 1976–8, 1983–4, President 1986–96 Soares was born in Lisbon, the son of João Soares, a well-known minister of the First Portuguese Republic (1910–26) and opponent of the dictatorship of António Salazar. This family background contributed substantially to his political education. One of his teachers was Alvaro Cunhal, who later became the secretary-general of the Portuguese Communist Party.

Mário Soares is probably, apart from António Salazar, the most significant Portuguese politician of the twentieth century. He first became politically active in the Communist-dominated MUNAF (Movimento de Unidade Nacional Anti-fascista—Movement of National Anti-Fascist Unity) after the Second World War. He then moved away from the Communist movement and became the leader of the small socialist opposition in Portugal. Nevertheless, he continued to co-operate with other opposition groups, particularly the Communists and republicans, for the occasional façade legislative elections. He was imprisoned twelve times and deported to the former Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe in 1968, for his political activities. In 1970 he was forced into exile in France.

After many attempts to refound the Portuguese Socialist Party, which had been established in 1875 and dissolved in 1933, his efforts succeeded on 19 April 1973 in the congress of the Socialist Opposition in Bad Munstereiffel, West Germany. The foundation of the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista—PS) was achieved with the help of the Socialist International (SI) and the German Social Democrats. After the collapse of the authoritarian regime on 25 April 1974, Soares returned to Portugal and was widely recognized as one of the major leaders of the Opposition. He took part in the first four provisional governments and sixth government. During 1974 and 1975 he became the major opponent of the attempts of the Communist Party to control the state apparatus, the media, and the economy, and played an important part in Portugal's successful transition to democracy. In the elections to the Constituent Assembly, the PS under his leadership achieved a relative majority of the vote. In the first elections of 1976, the Socialists again were the largest party and Soares became the first Prime Minister under the new constitution. Nevertheless, the instability of the minority government and its lack of a reliable majority in the parliament led to its downfall in 1978. In spite of some opposition inside the party, he became secretary-general again in 1980. Three years later he returned as Prime Minister leading a coalition with the PSD. In 1985 he was elected President (the first civilian President since 1926) and re-elected in 1991, acting more as a check on the absolute majority government. He stood down in 1996 as the constitution did not allow for three consecutive terms. He stood again for President unsuccessfully in 2006. He was also a PS member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004.

Subjects: Politics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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