In a note published on the official website of the Presidency of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa claims to have taken this decision “in view of the fact that it can have concrete effects on local authorities and their respective officials and was submitted for authorisation after the municipal elections were called and the deadline for submitting candidacies had begun”.

The head of state returned the bill to the Assembly of the Republic “requesting that they reflect on it after the election has taken place, that is, in a month and two days”, reads the same note.

In the letter sent to the President of the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa states that this bill “is the result, in fact, of the possible non-application of sanctions against a specific and limited number of local authorities, relating to the PAEL”.

“It seems like common sense not to cause electoral interference with it, and even reputational damage to local authorities and mayors, thus safeguarding the separation between the legislation on municipal management and the current electoral period”, considered the President of the Republic.

According to the website of the Assembly of the Republic, this bill, a final text coming out of the Local Power Commission, based on a PS bill, was approved in a final vote on 22 July with the abstention of the CDS-PP, Chega and Liberal Initiative.

The day after the approval of the bill, the president of the PSD, Rui Rio, accused socialists and communists of being “shamelessness” when they came together to “vote a law that simply prevents six mayors, five from the PS and one from the PCP to lose their mandate for having violated that same law, for not having fulfilled what they pledged to do”.

The president of the PSD, who was speaking in Tábua, in the district of Coimbra, said that “the mayors of Covilhã, Aljustrel, Vila Nova de Gaia, Cartaxo and Alfândega were about to lose their municipal mandate in court.

“They got together, changed the law and, administratively, this is how easy it is. If by chance, one of them has not complied with the law, there is a solution, the law is changed. This is not a method of Government, nor is this the rigor that the country deserves and that the Portuguese deserve”, added Rui Rio, at the time.

The PAEL established a regime for granting credit by the State to municipalities to settle the payment of debts to suppliers which are overdue for more than 90 days, with reference to 31 March, 2012.

Under this law, 103 municipalities entered into loan contracts between 2012 and 2015 with maximum terms of validity of 20 or 14 years, depending upon the respective situations at the time.

Under the terms of the bill approved on 22 July and now rejected, municipalities that resorted to the PAEL could not charge the maximum rate of municipal property tax (IMI) required by joining the programme.