|Category||1st-level administrative division|
|Populations||127,018 (Portalegre District)–2,135,992 (Lisbon District)|
The Districts of Portugal (Portuguese: Distritos de Portugal), are the most important first-level administrative subdivisions of continental Portugal. Currently, mainland Portugal is divided into 18 districts. The Portuguese Autonomous Regions of Açores and Madeira are no longer divided into districts.
As an administrative division, each district served mainly as the area of jurisdiction of a civil governor, who acted as the local delegate of the Central Government of Portugal.
The Districts of Portugal were established by a royal decree of 18 July 1835. On the Portuguese mainland, they correspond to the current districts, with the exception of Setúbal District, which is the result of a split of Lisbon District in 1926. This decree did not affect the then extensive colonial empire.
The 1976 Portuguese Constitution specifies that Portugal has only, as first-level divisions, the autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) and the administrative regions (to be created in mainland Portugal). According to the Constitution, the districts shall be disestablished in territories in which an autonomous or administrative region has been created.
The districts were abolished in Azores and Madeira in 1976, when the autonomous regions were created. In 1998, a proposal was submitted to referendum to create eight administrative regions in mainland Portugal, and so to extinguish the districts. The proposal was rejected at the ballot box and so the districts continued to exist in mainland Portugal. It is worth noting that despite their abolition in the autonomous regions, the areas of the three former districts of Azores are still used as areas of jurisdiction of some government and non-government entities, like the district finance directorates (Tax Authority regional offices) and the district football championships.
However, the importance of the districts has been decreasing. In recent years, some administrative, financial and political competencies have been delivered to the CCDRs (Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional, English: Commission for Regional Coordination and Development) and to the municipalities, to the detriment of the districts. In 2003, the Portuguese municipalities were allowed to organize themselves into intermunicipal communities (comunidades intermunicipais) and metropolitan areas (áreas metropolitanas), which allowed for a lessening in the importance of the districts.
Also, the abolition of the districts is a subject that returned to discussion in Portuguese society. In 2009, during the campaign for the legislative election of 2009, the leader of the Socialist Party, José Sócrates, promised a new referendum to the administrative regions and therefore, the abolition of districts, if he won the election. Other personalities support the creation of administrative regions and therefore the abolition of districts.
Despite being in the process of being phased out by the decentralisation policies of the government, the districts still remain the most relevant subdivision in the country by serving as a basis for a series of administrative divisions such as electoral constituencies, police, and civil protection regional commands; sports district associations; and championships.
On September 8, 2011, a decree from the Portuguese Government de facto extinguished all the offices of civil governor by transferring most of their functions to other bodies. As the existence of the civil governors is still included in the Portuguese Constitution, its de jure extinction may occur only after a constitutional amendment.
In mainland Portugal, for administrative purposes, the districts are still used as the areas of jurisdiction of the local branches and field offices of several Government ministries and agencies. Some of the bodies that have each district as their jurisdiction area are:
For non-Government purposes, the districts are used as the area of jurisdiction of many entities, including:
density per km2
|Viana do Castelo||10||208||231,488||2,255||103|
Following the model of European Portugal, the major Portuguese overseas territories (Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese India) were also divided in districts. In these territories, each district was headed by a district governor, subordinated to the governor-general. In Angola and Mozambique, the former district areas mostly coincide with the modern province areas. In the former Portuguese India, the Damão and Diu districts are still divisions of the present union territory of Daman and Diu, while the present state of Goa (former Goa District) is now divided into two districts.