Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In the run-up to the September 2009 parliamentary elections, in which Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ Socialist Party narrowly won reelection, a scandal erupted over an allegation that the Socialist government was spying on President Anibal Cavaco Silva. Meanwhile, corruption continued to be an issue of concern throughout the year.
Leading up to the September election, an espionage scandal overtook election coverage when the newspaper Publico reported that President Silva feared that he was under surveillance by the Socialist government. The opposition newspaper, Diario de Noticias, alleged that the story was leaked by Silva’s longtime advisor, Fernando Lima, who was subsequently fired by Silva at the end of September. The president addressed the scandal following the elections, denying reports that he thought the presidency was under surveillance and claiming that Lima had been let go due to the disruption caused by his supposed involvement.
Portugal is an electoral democracy. The 230 members of the unicameral legislature, the Assembly of the Republic, are elected every four years using a system of proportional representation. The president, elected for up to two five-year terms, holds no executive powers, though he can delay legislation with a veto and dissolve the Assembly to call early elections. The prime minister is nominated by the Assembly, and the choice is confirmed by the president. The constitution was amended in 1997 to allow resident noncitizens to vote in presidential elections.
Domestic violence against women remains a problem, and few cases are brought to trial; over 7,000 cases were reported in the first half of 2008.A 2008 report from the General Confederation of Portuguese Workersrevealed that women earn four times less than men. In August 2009, a lesbian couple lost their court appeal to marry as the Portuguese government declared gay marriage unconstitutional. After the September elections, a Secretary for Equality position was created to promote women as equal members of society, among other duties. The country is a destination and transit point for trafficked persons, particularly women from Eastern Europe and former Portuguese colonies in South America and Africa.