Left Bloc

This article is about the political party in Portugal. For other uses, see Left Bloc (disambiguation).
Left Bloc
Bloco de Esquerda
Abbreviation BE
Spokesperson of the Permanent Commission Catarina Martins[1]
Founded 24 March 1999 (1999-03-24)
Merger of People's Democratic Union[2]
Revolutionary Socialist Party[2]
Politics XXI[2]
Headquarters Rua da Palma, 268
1100-394 Lisbon
Newspaper Esquerda
Membership  (2009) 6,830[3]
Ideology Democratic socialism[4]
Political position Left-wing[9]
European affiliation Party of the European Left,[10]
European Anti-Capitalist Left
International affiliation None
European Parliament group European United Left/Nordic Green Left[11]
Colours      Red (official)
     Black (customary)
Assembly of the Republic
19 / 230
European Parliament
1 / 21
Regional Parliaments
4 / 104
Local Government
8 / 2,086

The Left Bloc (Portuguese: Bloco de Esquerda, pronounced: [ˈblɔku dɨ (ɨ)ʃˈkeɾdɐ]) is a left-wing political party in Portugal founded in 1999. It is sometimes abbreviated to B.E. (punctuated), but its name is usually said in full or colloquially abbreviated as O Bloco. The Bloc is a founding member of the European Anti-Capitalist Left and participates in the Party of the European Left.

Notable members have included Fernando Rosas, Francisco Louçã, and Miguel Portas (brother of CDS–PP leader Paulo Portas, a strongly right-wing politician). Since 1 December 2014, the party has been headed by a six-member Permanent Commission whose spokeswoman is Catarina Martins.[12]


Formation and early history

The Left Bloc (B.E.) was formed in March 1999 by the merger of the People's Democratic Union (União Democrática Popular, UDP, communist: Marxist), Revolutionary Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Revolucionário, PSR, ex-LCI, Trotskyist Mandelist), and Politics XXI (Política XXI, PXXI, democratic socialist).[2] B.E. has had full party status since its founding, yet the constituent groups have maintained their existence as individual political associations, so restaining some levels of autonomy in a loose structure.

In the 1999 legislative election the B.E. polled at 2%. In 2002 this rose to 3%.

First parliamentary representation

Marisa Matias, Left Bloc MEP (since 2009)

At the 2005 election B.E. received 6.5% of the votes leading them to enter the Assembly of the Republic for the first time with 8 MPs. In the Portuguese 2006 presidential elections, the Left Bloc's candidate, Francisco Louçã, received 288,224 votes (5.31%).

In the 2009 European election they received 10.73% winning them 3 MEPs. They also surpassed the CDU for the first time in an election. At the subsequent 2009 national election, the party obtained 9.81% of votes and 16 deputies in the 230-seat Assembly of the Republic.

Pro-Left Bloc graffiti on the façade of a vacant house in Rato, Lisbon

The Financial crisis led socialist prime minister Sócrates to agreeing into a bailout memorandum with the Eurogroup. In the subsequent 2011 snap election, the country saw a massive shift to the right, with the Left Bloc losing nearly half of its previous popular support, obtaining only 5.17% of the vote and 8 deputies. This defeat is generally attributed to the partial support certain sections of the party appeared to offer the unpopular Socialist government while the latter pursued an austerity programme in response to the financial crisis.

Renewal, split and recovery

Francisco Louçã at the 6th Nacional Convention of BE
Catarina Martins, current leader of BE

The historical merger of ideologies which gave rise to the Portuguese Left Bloc was a process that lasted sixteen years. Its main actors aged and times changed, which led to an awareness of the need for modernization and realism. Francisco Louçã is one of the founders who most insisted in restricting theory to the basic humanistic and ethical principles common to partisans and supporters in order to conquer a wider range of constituencies. The game would necessarily be played in the framework of democracy, active participation and defence of human rights. After thirteen years of intensive labor as a leader, Louçã quit the position of party chair-man in 2012 arguing that “it is time for renewal” and delegating his functions to a man and a woman.[13] Catarina Martins, 39 years old, and João Semedo, a veteran, would be elected co-chairmen of the party on November 11, 2012. However, the renewal process would last for over one year.[14]

In early 2014, the Left Bloc suffered a split, when elected Left Bloc MEP Rui Tavares, who already in 2011 had become an independent, founded left-libertarian LIVRE party. Left intellectuals who had come together to the Manifesto 3D collective challenged the Left Bloc to converge with LIVRE towards a joined list in the upcoming 2014 European election. Two official meetings in late 2014 and early 2015 however failed with the Left Bloc referring to programmatic differences with Tavares.[15] So while the severe austerity programs under prime minister Passos Coelho did backdrop on the Portuguese political right, the European election in May saw the Socialists and liberal Earth Party as relative winners, whereas the Left Bloc lost more than half of 2009's votes and two of its three mandates. LIVRE received 2.2% but failed to win any mandate.

By 2015, the controversial privatization of Portugal's flag carrier airline TAP dominated the political debate. In the 2015 legislative elections, the Left Bloc didn't only recover, but even topped its 2009 electoral performance, winning 10.2% or 19 mandates. While in 2011, more than half of the elected Left Bloc's deputies were female, this time however a majority of the party's deputies was male.

On 10 November 2015, the Left Bloc signed an agreement with the Socialist Party that is aimed at identifying convergence issues while recognizing the differences.[16]


The Left Bloc is often considered by foreign observers and conservative local commentators as a radical left wing party. It actually occupies a flexible and moderate position to the left of the Portuguese Socialist Party (PS).[17][18]

The Bloc proposed a number of important laws on civil rights and guarantees, including the protection of citizens from racist, xenophobic, and homophobic discrimination, support for same-sex marriage, laws for the protection of workers and anti-bullfighting legislation. These included Portugal's first law on domestic violence, which was then passed in parliament with the support of the Portuguese Communist Party and the Socialist Party. At present, together with SP, Left Bloc aims at “building a stable, long-lasting and reliable majority at the Parliament, in order to support the formation and subsequent action of a government committed to the change demanded through the ballot-box”. This purpose foreshadows changes taking place not only in the Iberian Peninsula as in European territory.[19][20][21][22]

Electoral results

Assembly of the Republic

Election Assembly of the Republic Government Size Leader Notes
Votes % ±pp Seats won +/−
1999 132,333 2.4%
2 / 230
Opposition 5th Francisco Louçã
2002 149,966 2.7% Increase0.4
3 / 230
Increase 1 Opposition 5th Francisco Louçã
2005 364,971 6.4% Increase3.6
8 / 230
Increase 5 Opposition 5th Francisco Louçã
2009 557,306 9.8% Increase3.1
16 / 230
Increase 8 Opposition 4th Francisco Louçã
2011 288,923 5.2% Decrease4.6
8 / 230
Decrease 8 Opposition 5th Francisco Louçã
2015 550,945 10.2% Increase5.0
19 / 230
Increase 11 Parliamentary support 3rd Catarina Martins Supporting in parliament the socialist gov't of António Costa

European Parliament

Election year # of overall
% of overall
# of overall
seats won
+/- Notes
1999 61,920 1.79 (#5)
0 / 25
2004 167,313 4.91 (#5)
1 / 24
Increase 1
2009 382,667 10.72 (#3)
3 / 22
Increase 2 Two seats since 2011 after Rui Tavares' departure.[23]
2014 149,764 4.56 (#5)
1 / 21
Decrease 2

See also


  1. "Portal do Bloco de Esquerda - Mesa Nacional elege Comissão Política e Comissão Permanente". Portal do Bloco de Esquerda. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "European Social Survey 2012 - Appendix 3 (in English)" (PDF). European Science Foundation. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  3. "Bloco de Esquerda comemora décimo aniversário", Público (newspaper), 28 February 2009, retrieved 21 August 2013
  4. Nordsieck, Wolfram, "Portugal", Parties and Elections in Europe, retrieved 23 October 2012
  5. http://global-politics.co.uk/wp/2015/02/11/where-is-portugals-radical-left/
  6. http://www.euroviews.eu/2014/03/31/country-profile-portugal/
  7. http://www.parties-and-elections.eu/portugal.html
  8. Wall, Derek (2010), The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement, Pluto Press, p. 97
  9. http://europe.demsoc.org/2014/05/19/left-bloc-be/
  10. "EL-Parties | European Left". Party of the European Left. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  11. "Bloco de Esquerda - GUE/NGL - Another Europe is possible". GUE/NGL. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  12. Mesa Nacional elege Comissão Política e Comissão Permanente - Notícia, 1/2/1914
  13. Francisco Louçã deixa liderança do Bloco ao fim de 13 anos - News TSF, 18 August 2012
  14. Portugal: Left Bloc in struggle to regain unity after convention at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, December 13, 2014
  15. Frederico Pinheiro (April 2014). "Out of the Trap". Luxemburg Online. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  16. "Agreement signed between the Socialist Party and the Left Bloc". 6 November 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  17. Left Bloc (BE) at The Democratic Society
  18. Conn Hallinan (5 November 2015). "Portugal's Democracy Crisis". Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  19. Spain’s election will be felt across the whole continent – article by Owen Jones at The Guardian, December 18, 2015
  20. Governing Party in Spain Loses Majority in Parliamentary Election – article by Raphael Minder at The New York Times, December 20, 2015
  21. Splintered Spanish vote heralds arduous coalition talks – news by Julien Toyer and Sonya Dowsett at Reuters, December 20, 2015
  22. Parties in Spain Wrestle to Form a Government – article by Raphael Minder at The New York Times, December 21, 2015
  23. "Rui Tavares rompe com o Bloco de Esquerda". Expresso. 21 June 2011.

External links

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