Local Political Leadership in Portugal: Excepcionalism or Convergence Towards a 'Mayoral Model'?

  • Carlos Nunes Silva


The purpose of this paper is to examine the reform of institutional forms that frame local government in Portugal, and to put them into a comparative European perspective. The paper addresses the following research question: To what extent have Portuguese local government reforms shown convergence or divergence with the local political leadership models in Europe over the last three decades of democracy? We hypothesized that reforms affected the local government system in different ways, using some of its components and following more explicitly international trends than others. This hypothesis was tested against the model of local political leadership, including the rules governing the recruitment of mayors and local councillors. This study is based on both archival research for the Portuguese case and the literature review for the survey of international trends. The findings indicate the existence of similarities between reforms in Portugal and reforms in other European countries. But they also indicate divergence in some important dimensions of the local government system. KEYWORDS: • local government reform • institutional forms • recruitment • models of local political leadership • Portugal