Francisco Sá Carneiro Biography

Francisco Sá Carneiro (July 19, 1934 – December 4, 1980).  Lawyer and political leader of Portuguese origin, who began in political life as deputy to the National Assembly of the New State, from where he undertook great efforts to get his country to be born to a Democracy.


A few years later, in 1980, he also became Prime Minister of Portugal, ruling for a year, before his tragic death. He was also the founder of the Portuguese People’s Party, which changed its name to The Social Democratic Party.

In his country he is considered one of the main leaders of the Third Republic of Portugal, as well as a crucial character of the transition to Democracy by this European country.


Early Life

Francisco Sá Carneiro was born on July 19, 1934, in the city of Porto, Portugal, to the couple between lawyer José Gualberto Chaves Marques de Sá Carneiro and his wife Maria Francisca Judite Pinto de Costa Leite.

Her father was Portuguese, while her mother was originally from Spain and had noble ancestry, being the daughter of the second Count of Lumbrales. Francis received a good education from a very young age, adhered to the Catholic principles. Like his father, he studied law, graduating as a lawyer in 1956 from the University of Lisbon.

Political beginnings

His political training began at an early age, when he participated in the youth of Catholic Action. However, for the next thirteen years he devoted himself to pursuing his career, without having any connection with political activities.

However, in 1969, after Oliveira Salazar’s retirement, Marcelo Caetano called for elections, in which Sá Carneiro ran as deputy to the National Assembly, by the Single Party. Already within the Assembly, he joined the current of José Pedro Pinto Leite, called liberal wing, which claimed to turn Portugal into a Western democracy.

However, shortly after Pinto Leite died, an event that placed Sá Carneiro as head of this movement that demanded libertarian measures.

In 1970, the Liberal Wing presented President Caetano with a Constitutional Review Project, aimed at achieving reforms that would lead Portugal towards a Democracy. However, Marcelo Caetano refused, assuming a position that was interpreted by liberals as conservative. Three years later, at any sign of democratization, Sá Carnerio resigned from his position as Deputy, finally moving to the Opposition.

People’s Democratic Party

In 1974, in Portugal, the Revolution of the Claveles took place, a month later, Sá Carneiro founded, together with Balsemao and Magalhaes, the People’s Democratic Party, of which he became Secretary General of the People’s Democratic Party.

Sá Carneiro took as the basis, for the ideological formation of his Party, the political idea of the transformation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, in 1959, which was governed under the Godesberg Program, which departed from Marxist ideals.

During the provisional government of Adelino da Palma Carlos he served as Minister, without portfolio. In 1975, in the first legislative elections, he participated at the head of the People’s Democratic Party, being elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly, representing Porto. That May 1975 he suffered a car accident, which kept him away from his activities until September of that year.

Upon returning he found that his party, led in his absence by Emidio Guerreiro had changed his name to Social Democratic Party, taking a more leftist direction. However, on November 25, 1975, during a congress, he took back control of the organization. In 1976 he participated in the new Assembly of the Republic of Portugal. A year later, he resigned from the leadership of the Social Democratic Party, but the following year he was re-elected, not finding out who happened.

In 1979, on the way to legislative elections, he led his party to establish a center-right coalition with the Social Democratic Center and the Monarchical People’s Party, known as the Democratic Alliance, while taking a more conservative position. The Alliance triumphed widely, gaining one hundred and twenty-eight seats, establishing itself as the absolute majority of the Portuguese Third Republic.

Mandate as Prime Minister

In 1980, he was appointed Prime Minister, a position he assumed on 3 January. His mandate was characterized by the attempt to privatize basic sectors of the economy, including banking and the industrial sector, previously nationalized in the Revolutionary Process, however it kept some services under state control Strategic.

He increased social spending, supported the Agrarian Reform, incentivised liberal values, gaining the support of the working class and the middle class with his speech, labeled by some as populist.

However, he was a tremendous critic of the socialist and military factions. In October of that year he saw the Democratic Alliance increase the number of curules within the Assembly in legislative elections, where 47.6% of the vote and one hundred and thirty-four seats were made.

Tragic outcome

However, his command was brief. On December 4, 1980, the day before the presidential election, involving his candidate Mário Soares, he died in a tragic plane crash, when the ship he had just boarded crashed into a building, minutes after it took off.

Most public opinion has since maintained that the accident may have been the result of far-right sabotage, aimed at ending Amaro de Costa’s life, and of which Sá Carneiro was collateral victim. His death was a blow to the Social Democratic Party. The elections were held, winning Ramalho Eanes. Sá Carneiro was succeeded in his post of Prime Minister by Francisco Pinto Balsemo, who nevertheless could not imitate him in his charisma and popularity.

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Francisco Sá Carneiro Biography
Source: Education  
August 6, 2019


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