Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Rebelo de Sousa in 2017
20th President of Portugal
Assumed office
9 March 2016
Prime MinisterAntónio Costa
Luís Montenegro
Preceded byAníbal Cavaco Silva
President of the Social Democratic Party
In office
31 March 1996 – 1 May 1999
Secretary-GeneralRui Rio
Carlos Horta e Costa
António Capucho
Artur Torres Pereira
Preceded byFernando Nogueira
Succeeded byJosé Manuel Barroso
Leader of the Opposition
In office
31 March 1996 – 1 May 1999
Prime MinisterAntónio Guterres
Preceded byFernando Nogueira
Succeeded byJosé Manuel Barroso
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs
In office
12 June 1982 – 9 June 1983
Prime MinisterFrancisco Pinto Balsemão
Preceded byFernando Amaral
Succeeded byAntónio de Almeida Santos
Secretary of State for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers
In office
4 September 1981 – 10 June 1982
Prime MinisterFrancisco Pinto Balsemão
Preceded byJosé Luís da Cruz Vilaça
Succeeded byLeonor Beleza
Member of the Assembly of the Republic
In office
2 June 1975 – 2 April 1976
ConstituencyLisbon
Personal details
Born
Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa

(1948-12-12) 12 December 1948 (age 75)
Lisbon, Portugal
Political partySocial Democratic Party (1975–2015)
Independent (since 2015)[1]
Spouse
Ana Cristina da Mota Veiga
(m. 1972; sep. 1980)
Domestic partnerRita Amaral (1981–present)
Children2
RelativesBaltasar Rebelo de Sousa (father)
Residence(s)Belém Palace (official)
Cascais (private)
Signature

Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa GColTE GCIH ComSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐɾˈsɛlu ˈnunu ˈðwaɾtɨ ʁɨˈβelu ðɨ ˈsozɐ]; born in 12 December 1948) is a Portuguese politician and academic. He is the 20th and current president of Portugal, since 9 March 2016.[2] He is a member of the Social Democratic Party, though he suspended his party membership for the duration of his presidency.[3] Rebelo de Sousa has previously served as a government minister, parliamentarian in the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, legal scholar, journalist, political analyst, law professor, and pundit.

Early life

Born in Lisbon, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is the eldest son of Baltasar Rebelo de Sousa (1921–2001) and his wife Maria das Neves Fernandes Duarte (1921–2003). He has claimed that his mother had Jewish ancestry.[4] He is named after Marcelo Caetano, the last prime minister of the Estado Novo regime and a friend of his father.[5][6]

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa became a professor and publicist specialized in constitutional law and administrative law, earning his doctorate at the University of Lisbon, where he taught law.[7]

Party politics and academic career

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa started his career during the Estado Novo as a lawyer, and later as a journalist.[8] He joined the Popular Democratic Party, becoming a Deputy to the Assembly of the Republic.[9] During that time, he helped draft Portugal's constitution in 1976.[10] Later he rose to Minister of Parliamentary Affairs under Prime Minister Francisco Pinto Balsemão.[11] Together with him he was a co-founder, Director and Administrator of the Expresso newspaper,[8] owned by Pinto Balsemão. He was also a founder of Sedes.[12] He worked with another newspaper, Semanário, between 1983 and 1987.[8] He started as a political analyst and pundit on the radio broadcaster TSF with his Exams,[8] in which he gave marks (0 to 20) to the main political players.

In 1989 he ran for President of the Municipal Chamber of Lisbon (Mayor of Lisbon) but lost to Jorge Sampaio, though he did win a seat as City Councilor (Vereador).[13] In that campaign he took a plunge into the waters of the Tagus River to prove they were not polluted despite claims to the contrary.[14] In other local elections, he also became the President of the Municipal Assembly of Cascais (1979–1982)[15] and the President of the Municipal Assembly of Celorico de Basto (1997–2009).[16]

Leader of the PSD, 1996–1999

Rebelo de Sousa was the leader of the Social Democratic Party from 31 de March 1996 to 1 May 1999.[9] He created a center-right coalition, the Democratic Alliance, with the People's Party in 1998. He became, however, the Vice-President of the European People's Party–European Democrats. The coalition did not please large parts of its own party, due to the role the People's Party leader, Paulo Portas, had in undermining Aníbal Cavaco Silva's government while director of the weekly O Independente.

Post-leadership

He had a weekly program of political analysis every Sunday on public TV station RTP after previously having a similar program on the private TV station TVI. President Jorge Sampaio dissolved the Assembly of the Republic, a move that also meant dismissing the Government at a time when it had a stable coalition majority, and calling for anticipated elections, which led to the defeat of Santana Lopes and the election of the Socialists under José Sócrates.

President-elect Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa delivering his victory speech on election night, 24 January 2016

In 2010, he left RTP and returned to TVI to do the same program that he had before.

He was made a Member of the Council of State, by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, and was sworn in on 6 April 2006.[17]

He was a leading figure on the anti-abortion side of the 2007 abortion referendum. He even founded a website titled "Assim Não" (Not like this), which was divulged with a famous introductory video.[18] It became so well known that it was parodied in Saturday Night Live-fashion by famous humour group Gato Fedorento.[19]

President of Portugal, 2016–present

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2022)

On 24 January 2016, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was elected as President of Portugal in the first round of voting. He stood as an independent, appealing for moderation and cross-party consensus.[20] During his election campaign, he promised to repair political divisions and the hardship of Portugal's 2011–14 bailout. Unlike his predecessor, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, he had never previously held a top state position.[21]

In March 2020, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa asked parliament to authorize a state of emergency to contain the COVID-19 pandemic; this marked the first time the country declared a state of emergency nationwide in 46 years of democratic history.[22]

In December 2020, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced his intention to run for office again in the 2021 Portuguese presidential election.[23] Marcelo was re-elected president in January 2021, with 60.7% of the votes, the third highest vote margin ever in presidential elections in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution. He was also the first candidate ever to win the vote in all municipalities, ranging from 51.3% in the Beja District to 72.16% in Madeira.[24]

During his presidency, Rebelo de Sousa has publicly supported making restitution and acknowledging abuses made during Portugal's colonialist history and the country's role in the Atlantic slave trade.[25]

State visits

First state visit as President of Portugal (Vatican, March 2016)
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, in the Kremlin in Moscow, 20 June 2018
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa with Donald Trump, the President of the United States, in the White House in Washington, D.C., 27 June 2018
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasília, on 2 August 2021

For a more comprehensive list, see List of international presidential trips made by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, as President of Portugal, has visited the Vatican, Spain, Mozambique, Morocco, Brazil, Switzerland, Cuba, United Kingdom, Greece, United States of America and Angola. The first visit was to the Vatican City to meet the Pope Francis and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] In 2019, he joined President Emmanuel Macron for the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, which honoured European military cooperation and the European Intervention Initiative that year.[33]

Health

In December 2017, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa underwent emergency surgery at Curry Cabral Hospital in order to treat an incarcerated umbilical hernia.[34][35] The procedure was performed by Eduardo Barroso, a friend of the president.[36] He was discharged from the hospital and lauded the Portuguese National Health Service, considering it an important achievement of Portuguese democracy.[37]

In June 2018, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was briefly hospitalized after he collapsed after a visit to Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary in Braga; the incident was caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure alongside acute gastroenteritis.[38][39]

In October 2019, he underwent planned cardiac catheterization at Santa Cruz Hospital, Carnaxide, in the outskirts of Lisbon, after accumulated calcium was detected in one of his coronary arteries.[40]

On 8 March 2020, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa suspended all his public agenda and returned to his private home in Cascais, entering a voluntary quarantine period for 14 days after being revealed that a group of students from Felgueiras, who had visited Belém Palace some days before, had also been quarantined after a positive case of COVID-19 was detected in their school.[41] Marcelo subsequently tested negative for the virus and worked remotely for a period during the COVID-19 pandemic.[42][43][44][45][46]

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa wearing a protective mask in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic

On 11 January 2021, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive for COVID-19, after a contact with a positive case in his staff. He was reportedly asymptomatic, and canceled his appointments, opting to remain in self-isolation.[47] Three further COVID-19 tests yielded negative results.[48] Some physicians said that a false positive PCR-RT test, although possible, was unlikely,[48] and tentatively attributed the subsequent negative tests to a low viral load.[49] On 13 January, however, the Lisbon and Tagus Valley regional public health authority confirmed that the President was considered to have had a low-risk exposure, and was therefore simply under passive surveillance for two weeks: the President was instructed that he could resume his agenda save for any events in crowded public places.[50]

In December 2021, he underwent planned surgery to remove two inguinal hernias at the Military Hospital in Lisbon.[51]

On 5 July 2023, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa collapsed during a visit to the NOVA University School of Science and Technology, in Almada. He was taken to Santa Cruz Hospital "as a precaution". His chief of staff, Fernando Frutuoso de Melo, assured the situation was probably due to the heat and to the President's "heavy schedule". After being submitted to several medical exams, the President was discharged four hours later, with a Holter monitor, and addressed journalists on his way out from the hospital, saying he had had an episode of low blood pressure since he had skipped lunch — as he usually does, replacing it with Fortimel, a medical nutrition supplement — and had been offered a glass of warm moscatel shortly before he fainted that "must have upset, probably, [his] digestion". The physicians recommended rest, though the President's personal physician, Daniel de Matos, remarked their recommendation would in all likelihood fall on deaf ears. His scheduled presence at several events was nonetheless cancelled until 9 July, but the President recorded video messages to be displayed at those events. Only indoor audiences at Belém Palace remained scheduled.[52][53][54][55]

Personal life

On 22 July 1972, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa married Ana Cristina da Gama Caeiro da Mota Veiga in the parish of São Miguel de Machede in Évora.[56] His wife, born on 4 June 1950 in the Santos-o-Velho parish of Lisbon, is the daughter of António da Mota Veiga and Maria Emília da Gama Caeiro. In the following years, Sousa and Mota Veiga had two children:

The couple separated in 1980 and subsequently divorced, although Marcelo, citing his Roman Catholic faith, believes marriage lasts until death.[57] He started dating his former student Rita Amaral Cabral in 1981, who at the time was his fellow lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon.[58] They continue to entertain a casual relationship, but live separately.[59]

Controversies

As President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was involved in 2023 in a controversy raised in a TVI program, which alluded to an alleged call by the head of state to speed up the treatment of Brazilian twins with the drug Zolgensma, considered one of the most expensive and rare drugs in the world, which is used by administering a single dose, costing two million euros. Suspicions of corruption and influence peddling surrounding this event and involving also his son, a friend of well-connected Brazilians who were friends of the Brazilian children’s family, have been raised by various sectors of Portuguese politics and the media.[60] Between July 2019 and July 2021, Infarmed, the Portuguese medicines agency, approved 17 applications for authorisation of the medicine given to the Brazilian twins. In most cases, authorisation took no more than a day.[61]

On 23 April 2024, he compared the current and previous prime ministers, saying that "António Costa was slow, because he is oriental" and Luís Montenegro, a rural personality in Sousa’s opinion, "is not oriental but he is slow", at a dinner with foreign journalists.[62]

Honours and awards

Portuguese Orders

Insignia of Office

Ancient Military Orders

National Orders

Foreign Orders

References

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Media offices Preceded byFrancisco Pinto Balsemão Director of Expresso 1980–1981 Succeeded byAugusto de Carvalho Political offices Preceded byFernando Amaral Minister of Parliamentary Affairs 1982–1983 Succeeded byAntónio de Almeida Santos Preceded byFernando Nogueira Leader of the Opposition 1996–1999 Succeeded byJosé Manuel Barroso Preceded byAníbal Cavaco Silva President of Portugal 2016–present Incumbent Party political offices Preceded byFernando Nogueira President of the Social Democratic Party 1996–1999 Succeeded byJosé Manuel Barroso Academic offices Preceded byDonald Tusk Invocation Speaker of the College of Europe 2020 Succeeded byAlexander De Croo