Portuguese American Journal

April 25th: Portuguese nation celebrates 49 years of democracy and freedom – Portugal

Every year, since 1974, Portugal commemorates the 25th of April as the nation’s “Freedom Day,” The Carnation Revolution, also known as the Revolution of April 25th, was a significant event in Portuguese history. It brought an end to the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, led by Antonio Oliveira Salazar, in power for almost 50 years.

The Carnation Revolution was named after the red carnations that were used as a symbol of the event, which marks the bloodless military coup that brought democracy and civil liberties to the Portuguese people.

Following the transition to democracy, in 1980, the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores became autonomous self-governed regions.

The uprising was carried out by a group of military officers who opposed the regime’s colonial wars in Africa and the lack of political freedoms at home. The coup was largely bloodless and involved a broad range of individuals, organized groups, and civil society.

In 1974, more than half of Portugal’s government budget was spent with the military engaged in wars in three of Portugal’s colonies in Africa. Under the newly established democratic rule, a swift decolonization program was implemented granting independence to Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Angola.

The military coup was undertaken by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) led by General Antonio Spinola and other prominent civilian and military leaders.

After General Spinola took over the revolution, ruling Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano was overthrown and forced into exile in Brazil. Spinola took charge of a Provisional Government that promised to restore civil liberties and hold democratic general elections and led the country to a transition to democracy. Hundreds of political prisoners were released.

A new constitution was drafted and approved in 1976 establishing a democratic and pluralist political system, enshrining basic human rights, and setting out the principles of the rule of law and separation of powers. Over the course of the next decades, a stable multi-party system has been established.

The new constitution replaced the authoritarian constitution of the Estado Novo regime, which had been in place since 1933. It established a presidential system of government with a strong prime minister and a unicameral parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. The constitution also guaranteed freedom of expression, association, and religion, as well as the right to education, health, and social security.

The new constitution was widely supported by the Portuguese people and helped to consolidate the country’s transition to democracy. It has since been amended several times to reflect changing political and social circumstances in Portugal.

In 1986, Portugal became a member of the European Union and has since evolved as a modern democratic state where the Portuguese population (10,632,069) enjoys many civil liberties.

The date, which this year marks the 49 anniversary of the revolution, is celebrated with a national holiday honored with official and cultural events.

Traditionally, the solemn commemorative session of the 25th of April, includes speeches by deputies from the political parties with parliamentary seats, in ascending order of representation, Livre, PAN, BE, PCP, Iniciativa Liberal, Chega, PSD, and PS, by the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Augusto Santos Silva, and by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.


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