The 72-year-old law professor and TV personality is known among the Portuguese for his easy-going style. He is also a former leader of the centre-right Social Democratic Party, and has worked closely with the centre-left minority Socialist governments to help tackle the pandemic. He is strongly pro-European and describes his politics as “social right”.
The President of Portugal, Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa, was born in Lisbon on 12 December 1948. He graduated in law in 1971, and three years later he defended his doctoral dissertation and obtained a doctorate in political and legal sciences.
For many years, the Portuguese politician and academic taught at the Institute of Law and Political Sciences and at the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon. He also taught at the Portuguese Catholic University, at the faculties of Social Sciences and Humanities. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has devoted his entire life to education, and journalism as well as to commenting on various ongoing political processes in society.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa began working as a journalist after graduating from university. Initially, he worked for Expresso newspaper; first as an administrator, then a deputy director, and from 1979 he was a director and co-founder of the weekly magazine. In the 1990s he became a political commentator, working with the following media: TSF, then the National Journal, TVI, and the BBC1.
Involvement in politics was not new but a long-standing tradition in the de Sousa family. Marcelo’s father, Balthazar de Sousa, was also a well-known Portuguese politician, the governor of the Mozambique region under the presidency of Antonio di Salazar.
When Rebelo’s son was born, he decided to name him in honour of Marcel Caetan, the last dictator in Portugal, who later became the boy’s godfather. No one would have imagined at that time that the baby boy would be the future president of Portugal. After the Carnation Revolution, in April 1974, the de Sousas fled to Brazil.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa’s political career began under the “New State” regime. After the Carnation Revolution, he joined the Social Democrats and a year later he was nominated to the Parliament by the Native Party. Then, at parliamentary and governmental level, he served as a deputy in the Constitutional Assembly elected by the PSD. Between 1981-1982, he was the Secretary of State in the government of the Democratic Alliance led by Francisco Pinto Balsemão. He was then elected as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs between 1982-1983. He was leader of the PSD from 1996 to 1999, after which he was one of the most influential opposition politicians in the country for three years. In 1996, he formed a political coalition of right-wing forces called the ‘Democratic Alliance’. In 1997, he became the Vice-President of the EPP (the European People’s Party).
On 24 January 2016, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was elected as an independent candidate in the presidential election.
He successfully won the election and became President of the Republic of Portugal. During his election campaign, Marcelo pledged to recover the political divisions and the difficulties deriving from Portugal’s 2011-14 bailout. Unlike his predecessor, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, he had never held a top public office state position
Then, in December 2020, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced his candidacy for the 2021 Portuguese presidential elections. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected as a president in January 2021, with 60.7% of the votes which was the third highest margin of victory in a Portuguese presidential election since the Carnation Revolution. With this result, it was no longer necessary to hold a second round of elections. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is the fifth politician in Portugal’s democratic history to be re-elected. Although the Coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to conduct the voting, the president thanked the voters for adhering to the strict pandemic rules and regulations. In March 2020, Rebelo de Sousa asked the Parliament to authorise a state of emergency to control the COVID-19 pandemic, and this was the first time in the 46 years of democratic history that the country has declared a state of emergency nationwide.