Portugal. The year began with the presidential election
January 14. According to
Countryaah, Jorge Sampaio was re-elected by a good margin to
a second five-year term in the post.
Two serious traffic accidents in March led to the
resignation of Jorge Coelho, Minister of Infrastructure and
Transport. More than 50 people were killed when a 200 meter
long road bridge collapsed across the Douro River outside
Porto. A two-storey bus and at least two passenger cars
crashed into the river, which was flooded due to heavy rain.
It soon became apparent that local authorities had on
several occasions warned central officials that the bridge
was in miserable condition but that no action was taken.
Public outrage grew even more when a bus accident later that
month on a notorious stretch of road in northern Portugal
claimed 14 lives and injured 25. The bus slipped in heavy
rain off the road, called the Death Road, into a 200-meter
Coelho's responsibilities were taken over by Social
Minister Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues. Harsh criticism from the
opposition to economic policy and increasingly strong
demands for new elections caused Prime Minister Guterres to
make a number of remodels in the government in the summer.
The most notable was a change at the Finance Minister post.
A new drug law came into force on July 1, which
decriminalized all previously banned drugs and classified
drug abuse as a social problem and health problem rather
than as a crime. With this, the government hoped that
addicts could more easily access health care and that the
police could focus their work on accessing the crime
syndicates that control drug trafficking.
On July 31, Francisco da Costa Gomes, 87 years old,
passed away in 1974–76. He had a leading role in the bloody
coup in 1974 and led the country through the difficult
transition from the chaos of the revolution to a modern
After a stinging defeat in the local elections in
December, the ruling Socialist Party leader, Prime Minister
António Guterres, filed his resignation application. Among
other things, the socialists lost power in the big cities of
Lisbon and Porto. The faltering economy was considered to be
the cause of the setback. Since no other member of the
Socialist Party assumed the prime ministerial role and it
was also clear that no other party or party coalition would
be able to form a government, President Sampaio decided to
dissolve parliament and announced new elections until March