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When opposition cooperates: the case of Portugal

Government
Parliaments
Political Parties
Federico Russo
University of Salento
Federico Russo
University of Salento
Elisabetta De Giorgi
University of Trieste

Abstract

Given the presence of a variety of political conditions, the Portuguese case provides an excellent opportunity to understand which variables could mainly affect the opposition’s behaviour and determine its conduct in parliament. First, it permits to test the effect of a crucial systemic factor traditionally thought to affect the opposition’s behaviour, namely the strength and composition of the executives. Portugal, in fact, has experienced for a long time the alternation of majority and minority governments, which implies very different political opportunities for the opposition parties. Second, it allows us to test the difference in the behaviour of temporary and permanent opposition, given the presence of two mainstream parties alternating in office – the Socialist Party and the Social Democrat – and three radical left parties – the Portuguese Communist Party, the Greens and the Left Block. Finally, in recent years, it offers an insight into the impact of the economic crisis on the opposition’s behaviour, when the dilemma between conflict and cooperation becomes more complex, especially for mainstream parties in opposition. We will explore the impact of the three factors mentioned above by investigating the opposition’s behaviour in Portugal in three legislative terms, namely during the two governments led by the Socialist José Socrates (2005-2011) and the one led by the Social Democrat Pedro Passos Coelho (2011-2015).