Portuguese communists demand revival of civil parishes lost in local body aggregation

Following the reorganization of civil parishes, the third-level administrative subdivision in Portugal, as part of the structural adjustments to bail out the sovereign debt crisis in 2013, the number of parishes across the country was reduced from 4,259 to 3,091

November 04, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Civil Parishes - Portugal
A sign board indicating an office of the parish administration. (Photo: via sapo.pt)

The Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) has intensified its campaign for the revival of the Freguesias (civil parishes) that were lost in the reorganization of civil parishes through aggregation in 2013. The PCP, in the last week of October, urged the political parties represented in local bodies across the country to enable the return of lost parishes to local populations. The PCP-led Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU) has also slammed local bids and challenges to derail the proceedings for the time-bound completion of the revival of the parishes of Horta das Figueiras, Malagueira, Bacelo and Senhora da Saúde in the Évora district.

In Portugal, Freguesia or a civil parish is the third-level administrative subdivision under the state, while municipalities and regions form the second and first tiers of administrative subdivisions, respectively, as per the 1976 constitution. A parish is administered by an executive and a parish assembly. Till 2013, 4,259 civil parishes existed across Portugal. When confronted with the sovereign debt crisis in 2011, the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD)-led government reorganized the parishes under the conditions set by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This was implemented along with several other structural adjustment policies agreed upon in the bailout talks to slash public expenditure and cost of local governance. The reorganization of the parishes was carried out through Law 11-A/2013 of January 28, 2013, and as a result, several parishes across the country were merged to adjacent parishes and the total number of parishes was reduced from 4,259 to 3,091.

The PCP tried to push a proposal in 2015 in the Assembly of the Republic to revive the extinct parishes, but it was voted down by the Socialist Party (PS) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Later, in 2021, the National Assembly legislated for the revival of lost parishes through administrative and democratic processes, which must be completed by December 21, 2022.

The PCP stated on October 28, “Since 2013, when 1,168 civil parishes went extinct in the country, the PCP has made every effort to reverse this situation. We have also attended several public and institutional actions in this regard, demonstrations and the unanimous approval of motions in the Councils and Assemblies of the Parish and the National Municipality Association meetings.”

“The PCP appeals to the political parties represented in these local bodies to consider the proposal that will be presented at these extraordinary meetings and make possible the return of these congregations to the populations. We also call on the population to mobilize to follow and participate actively in this process of the greatest importance for democratic life,” the party added.