Overview and context
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The Portuguese Republic is a democratic and unitary state. Politically and administratively, the structure (mainland and autonomous regions) is based on a tripartite division of its territory into Districts (total of 20), Municipalities (total of 308) and Parishes (total of 3092). The archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are autonomous regions with their own political and administrative statutes.
The Constitution distinguishes four independent and sovereign organs: the President of the Republic, Parliament, the Government and the Courts of Law. Parliament is the representative assembly of all Portuguese citizens. It is composed of a minimum of 180 and a maximum of 230 Members. Members are elected by electoral districts, which may be either multi-member or single member electoral districts to ensure proportional representation. The Government is responsible for setting policy. It is also the superior organ of the public administration and it is formed by the Prime Minister, the Ministers and Secretaries and Secretaries of State. The Government has political, legislative and administrative competences.
The Government and the Assembly have the competence to draw up national legislation. Legislation is issued in the form of Decree-Laws. When legislative texts containing legislative rules are passed by Parliament, they become known as Decrees of the Assembly of the Republic and, once they are enacted by the President, as Laws of the Republic. Decree-Laws issued by the President and Laws issued by the Parliament all possess equal force.
The competence to initiate laws and referenda lies with the members of the Assembly, parliamentary groups, the Government, and also, under the terms and conditions established by law, with groups of registered electors. The competence to initiate laws in relation to the autonomous regions lies with the respective Legislative Assemblies. Discussion of bills comprises a debate on the general principles and another on the details. Voting comprises a vote on the general principles, a vote on the details and a final overall vote. If the Assembly so decides, texts that are passed on the general principles shall be put to the vote on the details in committee, without prejudice to the Assembly’s power to mandate the Plenary to put the details to the vote, or to the final overall vote by the Plenary.
The last general election was held in October 2015 and elected all 230 members of the Assembly. The next election is expected to take place in 2019.