On 26 September, both Portuguese and foreign residents will be called to the polls to choose their local authorities in an election that takes place every four years. However, understanding politics in Portugal can be a challenge.

While in the UK and in the US there are only two parties in the parliament, in Portugal the electoral system allows for a greater plurality of parties in parliament, which allows for small parties to have more importance in the political panorama, even in local elections.

Furthermore, at the moment, nine parties with parliamentary seats are running for the local elections. In addition to these nine, that can compete alone or in coalition, there are groups of people who can stand as candidates independent of parties.

Socialist Party (PS)

Located on the centre-left, it is one of the main parties and is currently the ruling party in Portugal, with António Costa as a Prime Minister. The party, founded in 1973, won in 2017 in 161 councils, being the most voted for party in the last municipal elections.

This party is linked to the social-democracy developed in the mid-twentieth century, sharing values of freedom, equality, socialism and solidarity. The PS has a lower degree of conservatism, in relation to other centrist parties, and agrees with state intervention in the economy to improve social justice.

Social Democratic Party (PSD)

Founded in 1974, the Social Democratic Party is, as its name suggests, a party linked to the values ​​of social democracy and, together with PS, is one of the two main parties in Portuguese politics.

What differentiates this party from the previous one is that it is centre-right, which means that it focuses on more liberalising ideas in terms of the economy and is associated with more conservative values. Although commonly known as PSD, on the ballots you will find it in its official form - PPD/PSD.

Four years ago, PSD had its worst municipal result ever, having lost eight councils in relation to 2013.

At the moment, PSD is running alone in 153 municipalities and integrates 146 coalitions with CDS-PP.


Founded in 1974, this party was traditionally (before Chega and Iniciativa Liberal) the rightmost party in parliament, in spite of being mentioned as a center-right. This party usually presents more conservative proposals than PSD, with a strong emphasis on stronger immigration legislation, opposition to European federalism and tax cuts. CDS-PP is officially an anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia party, defending the right to life.

In 2017, the CDS managed to increase its councils from five to six: Abergaria-a-Velha, Oliveira do Bairro, Vale de Cambra (Aveiro), Ponte de Lima (Viana do Castelo), Santana (Madeira) and Velas (Azores).

Bloco de Esquerda (BE)

In English, left bloc, as the name suggests, is a party with Marxist roots, and is completely opposed to the previous one. BE advocate greater state intervention in the economy in order to reduce inequalities.

It is a leftist party that, more than politics, has also become activist on issues such as feminism, LGBTQ+, trade unionists and environmentalists.

BE was born in 1999 and currently has 19 deputies in the Assembly of the Republic, two seats in the European Parliament, 12 councillors, but no mayors in the 308 counties.

Unitarian Democratic Coalition (CDU)

This is an old coalition. The Unitarian Democratic Coalition (CDU) - made up of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), the Ecological Party "Os Verdes" (PEV) and the Associação Intervenção Democrática - will be running for all municipalities in mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Region of Madeira, and 16 of the 19 municipalities in the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

The Portuguese communist party (PCP) is a political party of communist and Marxist-Leninist nature and one of the strongest communist parties in Western Europe. The party was founded in 1921 and it went through the carnation revolution.

Despite not having as many parliamentary seats as other main parties that usually win local elections, such as PS and PSD, with regard to local elections, CDU is traditionally elected in several Portuguese councils. However, in 2017, it lost nine chambers to PS and recorded its worst result ever, with only 24 municipalities conquered. Therefore, this year the CDU declares PS as its main rival.


People-Animals-Nature (PAN), founded in 2009, achieved its first parliamentary representation in the election of 2015 taking on issues that had not been taken up by traditional parties such as animal welfare and the protection of the environment and human rights.

According to its website: “This Portuguese party intends to be the voice and political arm of civil movements, associations and NGOs that look for an alternative and renewed society, seeking to provide and go beyond state and institutional policies and promote awareness of solidarity for humanitarian, animal and ecological causes”.

At the moment, it is running for 43 municipalities, with the aim of increasing local representation and electing councilors. This party considers itself neither left nor right wing. Its neutrality has brought benefits, as its voters are normally people primarily concerned with the environmental and welfare causes.


The Chega party (meaning “enough” in English) was formed by André Ventura in 2019, and is characterised by being between right-wing on the political spectrum and far-right. It is a nationalist and social conservative party that defends the reduction of State intervention in the economy. The party calls for a more effective judicial system, supporting life imprisonment and chemical castration for child abusers. A topic that has been controversial and much linked to Chega are the statements against the Roma community that the party argues that are very dependent on social funds.

Despite being a recent party, after one deputy was elected in legislative elections and registering 11,9 percent of the votes in this year's presidential electoral act, the leader of Chega, André Ventura, considered as a goal for these local elections to become the “third party of national strength”.

Iniciativa Liberal

Inspired by Adam Smith “father of economics” philosophy, the Iniciativa Liberal (Liberal Initiative) is a party, as the name suggests, of the liberal right, formed in 2017, which currently has an elected deputy in the Assembly of the Republic.

The party's political ideas are based on the idea of freedom as the fundamental pillar of a society. It defends freedom as the core value of the Liberal Initiative. However, it is not only focused on economic freedom, defending the freedom of the human being as a whole. Unlike other parties on the Portuguese right wing, the Liberal Initiative is less conservative on issues such as the legalisation of abortion or euthanasia.

In the 2019 legislative election, among other measures announced, was the introduction of a fixed income tax rate of 15 for everyone, regardless of income level. Another measure that the Liberal Initiative announced, regarding education, was the creation of a system more similar to the American and British models for universities, adopting a system of student loan financing instead of the current student scholarships.


The party, whose name in English means freedom, is a recent party, founded in 2014. Livre is an eco-socialist political party with principles such as: universalism, freedom, solidarity, socialism, ecology and Europeanism.

If you don't know where to vote, click here to find out where your polling station is: https://eportugal.gov.pt/en/servicos/saber-onde-votar


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins