Estado Novo

The Estado Novo was a corporatist dictatorship that ruled over Portugal between 1933–1974, before being overthrown in the Carnation Revolution. For most of that time, it was headed by António de Oliveira Salazar (1889–1970), who basically gave a brand refresh to the dictatorial regime Portugal had had immediately before this, the Ditadura Nacional.

The regime was right-wing, being authoritarian, nationalistic and socially conservative (inextricably bound up with Catholicism). Salazar himself, however, tried to distance his regime from the openly fascist ones ruling over other parts of Europe, describing them as “pagan” (somehow). None­the­less, he did provide material support to Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and made a pact with him that neither Spain nor Portugal would get involved in WW2. He also stated that he admired Mussolini’s Italian fascism, while disliking Nazism (even though he declared 2 days of national mourning after Hitler died). Salazar was not a populist, and in fact tried to discourage as many people as he could from mobilising politically (even on the right-wing side of politics). I guess that makes him more of a technocrat. Under his rule, Portugal joined many Cold War-era institutions, becoming a founding member of NATO in 1949, the European Free Trade Association in 1960, and the OECD in 1961. The regime stubbornly resisted decolonisation (see: Portuguese Colonial War), and deployed secret police against enemies at home; for example, opposition Humberto Delgado was assassinated in 1965. Portugal remained one of the poorest countries in Europe during the Estado Novo era, and was also one of the slowest to achieve universal literacy.

Officially there were no parties in Salazar’s Portugal; his National Union was supposed to be a “non-party”. Representatives of the Legislative Assembly were required to be members of the National Union, but at any rate they weren’t allowed to introduce any bills that would require the government to spend money. The second chamber of the Portuguese parliament was the Corporative Chamber, which was made up of delegates from municipalities, universities, employer groups, “social welfare organisations”, and state-controlled yellow unions. This had a purely consultative role. What Salazar wanted was that corporations would be considered the rightful representatives of the people, rather than people having any say themselves. Par­lia­ment­ary elections were held in Portugal every 3–4 years between 1933 and 1973, with the ruling party winning an incredible 100% of valid votes every time except 1969.

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