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Abstract

This article analyses the policy-making role of Portugal's heads of state in the period 1976–2006. Not only is Portugal rarely studied in the English language comparative literature, but there is no consensus concerning the proper definition of the country's system of government, whether it is semi-presidential or parliamentary. This article presents new data on the Portuguese president's role in the following areas: cabinet appointment and dismissal; parliamentary dissolution; ministerial appointments; referral of legislative bills to judicial review; veto powers; and agenda-setting through going-public tactics. It is concluded that the president's role in the policy process has never been irrelevant. While the 1982 constitutional reform did eliminate the possibility of undisguised presidential government, presidents have continued to be important in policy making, particularly due to use of their veto and dissolution powers. Therefore, the article argues that Portugal has remained solidly semi-presidential.