Assembly of the Republic, São Bento Palace, Lisbon, Portugal

The Assembly of the Republic is the legislative body of the Portuguese State. It is the second sovereign body of a Constitutional Republic. It is a unicameral parliament, composed of 230 deputies, elected by multi-member circles for 4-year terms. The Assembly of the Republic meets daily at the São Bento Palace, in the parish of Estrela (Lapa), in Lisbon. At the rear of the building is the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

The Assembly of the Republic has general legislative and political competence. The Constitution provides that certain matters constitute an absolute reserve of legislative competence, that is, the Assembly cannot, on them, authorize the Government to legislate. These include, for example, the approval of amendments to the Constitution, the political and administrative statutes of the autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira), the laws of the great options of the plans and the State Budget, the Portuguese participation treatiesin international organizations, the regime for the election of holders of sovereign bodies (President of the Republic and Assembly of the Republic) as well as Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira and the holders of local government bodies and the referendum. On other matters within its exclusive competence, the Assembly may grant the Government authorization to legislate – this is called a relative reserve – which includes the bases of the social security system and the national health service, the creation of taxes and the tax system., the organization and jurisdiction of the Courts, among others.

The powers of inspection of the Assembly in relation to the Government’s actions and the acts of the administration can be exercised through several instruments:

approval of motions of confidence or censure;
requirements for appraisal of legislation produced by the Government that the Assembly may amend or revoke;
biweekly questions to the Prime Minister;
inquiries to the Government on matters of general or sectoral policy;
submission of requests (written questions) on any acts of the Government or Administration;
constitution of parliamentary commissions of inquiry that enjoy the investigative powers of the judicial authorities.

Assembly of the Republic Bureau
It is composed of the president, four vice-presidents, four secretaries and four vice-secretaries elected for the term of the legislature. All members of the Bureau are elected by an absolute majority of deputies in office.

In plenary meetings, the Bureau is made up of the President and the Secretaries. In the absence of the president, the meetings are chaired by one of the other vice-presidents. Secretaries can be replaced by deputy secretaries. It is incumbent upon the Bureau, in general, to assist the President in the exercise of his functions.

President of the Assembly of the Republic
The President of the Assembly of the Republic is elected, for the term of the Legislature, by an absolute majority of the votes of the Deputies in office.

The President represents the Assembly, directs and coordinates its work and exercises authority over all officials and agents and over the security forces placed at the service of the Assembly. The list of competencies provided for in the Rules of Procedure includes the presidency of the Plenary Meetings, the Conference of Representatives of Parliamentary Groups, the Permanent Commission, as well as the admission of legislative initiatives and the signing and sending of the AR’s Decrees to the President of the Republic for promulgation. In general, it is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Rules of Procedure and the deliberations of the Assembly. He is elected for the term of the Legislature. He replaces the President of the Republic in his absences or temporary impediment or, in the event of a vacancy in office, until the new President-elect takes office. During the interim replacement period, his term of deputy is automatically suspended.
Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of the Republic
The Rules of Procedure of the Assembly of the Republic is the document that provides for the rules of procedure of the Assembly of the Republic, approved by resolution, where all the rules relating to its organization, operation and forms of process are provided for the exercise of the powers provided for in the Constitution. The Bureau is responsible for interpreting the rules and integrating gaps.

Plenary meetings
They are always public. The deputies take place in the room in the form agreed between the President of the Assembly of the Republic and the representatives of the parties at the beginning of the legislature.

They are called by the President of the Assembly of the Republic at least 24 hours in advance, unless booked at the previous meeting.

In principle, each day corresponds to a plenary meeting, and there may exceptionally be more than one per day. Usually three plenary meetings are held per week.

There are seats reserved for members of the government.

They cannot be interrupted, except for a break, to restore order in the room, for lack of a quorum, for a short break at the request of parliamentary groups or to guarantee the smooth running of the work.

São Bento Palace
The São Bento Palace is a palace – style neoclassical located in Lisbon, being the seat of the Parliament of Portugal since 1834. It was built in the late sixteenth century (1598) as a monastery Benedictine (Monastery of St. Benedict Health) for traces of Baltazar Álvares, with a mannerist and baroque character. The National Archive of Torre do Tombo was installed there. With the extinction of religious orders in Portugal it became the property of the State. In the 17th century, the crypts of the marquises of Castelo Rodrigo were built.

After the establishment of the liberal regime in 1834, after the Portuguese Civil War, it became the headquarters of the Cortes Gerais da Nação, becoming known as the Palácio das Cortes. Following the changes in the official name of the Parliament, the Palace was also given several official names: Palácio das Cortes (1834-1911), Palácio do Congresso (1911-1933) and Palácio da Nacional Assembly (1933-1974). In the mid-twentieth century, the designation of Palácio de S. Bento started to be used, in memory of the old Convent. This denomination remained after 1976, when it became the seat of the Assembly of the Republic.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the Palace underwent a series of major remodeling works, both interior and exterior, which made it almost completely distinct from the old Monastery, of which the remodeling by Ventura Terra and in 1936 the monumental staircase, added by António Lino and completed by Cristino da Silva. The Palace has a central body with arcades on the ground level and over these colonnaded gallery, topped by a triangular pediment decorated with stuccoes. The interior is equally grand, full of wings, and the Chamber of Deputies’ Room of Sessions, the Room of the Lost Steps, the Noble Hall, among others, as well as works of art from different periods in the history of Portugal. The Palace also includes a Historical Museum, having been classified as a National Monument in 2002.

In 1999, the new building was inaugurated, which supports the Assembly of the Republic. Located in the square of S. Bento, the new building, a 1996 project by the architect Fernando Távora, although connected to the palace by direct interior access, was purposely built in order to be an autonomous structure in order not to compromise or mischaracterize the palace layout.

The Palace has an important historical, photographic and audiovisual archive:

The Historical Archive has all the documentation related to parliamentary activity from 1821 to the present. The Photographic Archive covers themes related to parliamentary activity but also images from the spaces of the São Bento Palace or from the post-25th of April. The Audiovisual Archive contains audio and audiovisual records of plenary sessions, committee meetings and some events.

The Passos Manuel Library, as it came to be called in October 2017, is a specialized library, whose main objective is to provide bibliographic support to the work of parliament, through the acquisition, management and dissemination of national and international scientific and technical information, as well as as well as information produced by the media.

The Library was created in 1836 with a fund of 7300 volumes, having a century later 23 000 volumes, comprising some important collections of Portuguese parliamentary documents.

The services of the Library were restructured from 1974 in order to cover all matters of parliamentary interest (Law, Politics, Economics, Science and Technology, Social Life, Public Administration, Statistics), presenting the following documentary sections:

Old Book Nucleus (1491-1800) – about 5000 volumes. This collection consists of important typographic specimens, which come from the old Biblioteca das Cortes, from a set of 1581 titles, of which the existence of two incunabula stands out.
Monographs – The monograph collection consists of approximately 50,000 volumes and is organized in chronological order by date of publication.
Periodical publications – The Library has 3300 magazine titles, with a size greater than 100,000 volumes.
National legislation and collections of laws – The Library has all the national legislation from the Manueline Ordinances (16th century) and Afonsinas Ordinances (15th century) to the present day, constituting a fund with about 3000 bound volumes.
Diaries of the Assembly of the Republic and other official publications – This collection consists of the Constituent Assembly’s Diary and all series of the Assembly of the Republic’s Diary since 1975 and all publications edited by the Assembly of the Republic.
Official Journals of the European Communities – This collection contains all the Official Journals of the European Communities since 1985.

Assembly Museum
Due to its long history, which includes different religious and political moments, this National Monument includes a very diverse collection, consisting of fixed and movable heritage and documentary background, composed of about 1275 pieces, divided essentially by the categories of Archeology, Art, Science and Technique, and Ethnology that testifies to the sacred and secular use, however the latter being the largest.

In addition to the monastic nucleus and the old background of the Chambers of Deputies, Peers of the Kingdom and Senators, the estate includes works acquired in the scope of successive initiatives for the requalification and dignification of spaces, pieces ordered to honor parliamentary figures, as well as offers institutional offers to the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the Assembly, personal offers by artists to the institution and donations of assets belonging to former members of Parliament.

Parliamentary Bookstore
The Parliamentary Bookstore aims to facilitate better knowledge about the Assembly of the Republic and the work carried out by this sovereign body.

The catalog of the Parliament’s editions, allows to identify, the publications available since 1977 by thematic areas.

Palacete de São Bento (Official Residence of the Prime Minister)
At the rear of the main building, on the grounds of the former monastery, there is a mansion built in 1877 by Joaquim Machado Cayres for his residence in a place of around 2 hectares that was part of the Convent of S. Bento since 1598. This palace is currently the official residence of the Prime Minister of Portugal.

In 1937, the palace was expropriated by the State for the Official Residence of the President of the Council. After the works were completed, António Salazar occupied the house in May 1938, but the official inauguration took place in April 1939. During the works, a ladder was made for an easier connection between the palace and the Assembly. With Marcello Caetano taking over the government, the palace saw a major renovation and transformation. Little more than the facades have been maintained. These works also included the construction of a new floor in place of the old attic. After April 25, 1974, the house and the garden underwent some modifications, but it was after 1986 with new renovations that the mansion and the garden gained greater operability and a more modern and adequate image to the new times. The existing garage until then disappeared, giving way to a building to receive visitors to the palace. The old asphalt pavement was replaced by Portuguese pavement.

Cultural Parliament
The cultural policy of the Assembly of the Republic has expanded widely with the regular organization of thematic exhibitions, musical concerts, theatrical shows, book presentations and other ceremonies.

The guided tours of the Palace of St. Benedict, as well as commemorative days when Parliament opens the door to free and recreational and cultural activities visits, give yet know the heritage, activity and parliamentary history.

The Assembly of the Republic has its own editorial activity, in which the Parliament Collection stands out, aimed at disseminating research on parliamentary history, and a set of publications aimed at the younger public. In addition to the publications, Livraria Parliamentary sells pieces and stationery materials evocative of the São Bento Palace and parliamentary history, also participating in book fairs.

Parliament organizes commemorative cycles to mark historical landmarks in Portuguese constitutional history, such as the Centenary of the Republic, the 40th anniversary of the 25th of April and the Constitution or the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in Portugal.

Currently, the celebrations of the bicentenary of Portuguese constitutionalism stand out, which has its origins in the Liberal Revolution of 1820 and in the Constitution of 1822.

The Commemorations of the 200 Years of Portuguese Constitutionalism, under the motto “Celebrate Freedom, 200 years of Constitutionalism”, are chaired by Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, and include, among other initiatives:

Exhibition “Death to death! 150 years of the abolition of the death penalty / 1867-2017”, curated by the historian Luís Farinha, in the Atrium of the São Bento Palace, from July 2017 to January 2018. Between April 7 and June 24, 2018, was on display at the Portuguese Center of Photography, in Porto.

Signing the approval of the letter of law of July 1, 1867 (penal reform of prisons and abolition of the death penalty for common crimes and public works), the exhibition highlights Portugal’s pioneering spirit in the abolition of the death penalty and presents, through of texts, images and documents, the legal and political antecedents, the previous execution practices, the national and international repercussions of the approval of the letter of law, the substitutes for the death penalty (perpetual cell penalty and exile for the colonies), the attempts replacement of capital punishment, making reference to the current situation in the world. It includes a multimedia nucleus with a framing film and an evocative projection of parliamentary debates on the theme.

Assignment of the name of Passos Manuel to the Library of the Assembly of the Republic (October 2017).

Exhibition “A look at the Ordinations”, curated by the historian João José Alves Dias, on display at the Passos Manuel Library, from November 16, 2017.

The exhibit is dedicated to the different impressions of the Ordinances – whether of the Kingdom, of the Farm, or of their repertoires – which are in the Library’s collection, printed before 1836.

“Requiem by João Domingos Bomtempo, op. 23, To the memory of Camões”, by the Flores de Mvsica Orchestra and by the Authentic Choir of the Higher School of Applied Arts of the Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco, in the Senate Room of the São Bento Palace, on November 29, 2017.

Presentation of the commemorative edition of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty, at the Passos Manuel Library, on December 6, 2017.

The publication, edited in partnership with the National Archives of Torre do Tombo, includes, in addition to the reproduction of the original text of the law letter of July 1, 1867 (penal reform of prisons and abolition of the death penalty for common crimes and labor crimes) public), deposited in this Archive, texts by researchers in the areas of Law and History, as well as those responsible for Amnesty International. The work includes an opening note by the President of the Assembly of the Republic and evocative texts by the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Culture, the Mayor of Lisbon and the Coordinator of the Commemorations of the Bicentennial of Portuguese Constitutionalism.

Ceremony for the delivery of the Human Rights Award 2017, at the Citizen Reception Center, on December 13, 2017.

The Assembly of the Republic marked the National Human Rights Day (December 10) with the Human Rights Award ceremony and the lecture “150 years of the abolition of the death penalty in Portugal”, given by Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins.

The 2017 Human Rights Prize was awarded to the Portuguese Red Cross, for its work with the populations affected by forest fires that occurred in the national territory this year, either through the reinforcement of emergency means, in the participation in rescue and transport teams, of psychological support, logistics and survival for displaced or displaced populations, either through the work developed and to be developed in the recovery and return to normality of these populations.

Presentation of the play “Fortunately there is moonlight!”, by the theater group A Barraca, in Sala do Senado, on December 13, 2017, at 6 pm. The play, by Luís de Sttau Monteiro, is set against the 1817 liberal revolt, suppressed by the absolutist power of the English regime of Beresford and Miguel Forjaz, while the court and the royal family were in exile in Brazil. The action focuses on the figure of General Gomes Freire de Andrade, who, accused of participating in the conspiracy, would be hanged on October 18, 1817.

Colloquium “The future of political representation | 200 years of the Sanhedrin”, at the Almeida Garrett Library Auditorium, in Porto, on January 22, 2018.

Theater “The last day of a convict”, by Victor Hugo, staged by Paulo Sousa Costa and performed by Virgílio Castelo, in the Senate Room, on February 1, 2018.

Exhibition “The right to self: 150 years of the abolition of slavery in the Portuguese empire”, curated by Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo and José Pedro Monteiro, on display in the Main Hall of the São Bento Palace from July 3 to December 30, 2019.

The exhibition seeks to contribute to a reappraisal of the abolition of slavery in Portugal, using the decree of 25 February 1869 as a pretext, integrating it into the historical dynamics that preceded and survived it. The abolition of slavery was not an event, but an eventful and ambivalent process, on many levels and in many ways, that this show intends to analyze.