Left Bloc

Left Bloc

Bloco de Esquerda
Coordinator of the Political CommissionCatarina Martins[1]
Founded24 March 1999 (1999-03-24)
Merger ofUDP, PSR, Politics XXI[2]
HeadquartersRua da Palma, 268
1100-394 Esquerda
Membership (2009)6,830[3]
IdeologyDemocratic socialism[4]
Political positionLeft-wing to far-left[9]
European affiliationParty of the European Left[10]
Maintenant le Peuple
International affiliationNone
European Parliament groupEuropean United Left/Nordic Green Left[11]
Colours     Red (official)
     Maroon (customary)
Assembly of the Republic
19 / 230
European Parliament
1 / 21
Regional Parliaments
4 / 104
Local Government
12 / 2,074
Party flag

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 often in print abbreviated to BE, but its name is usually said in full or colloquially abbreviated as O Bloco (The Bloc).

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 1999 election B.E. received 2.4% of the votes leading them to enter the Assembly of the Republic for the first time with 2 MPs for the Lisbon constituency. These were Francisco Louçã and Fernando Rosas. At the 2005 election B.E. received 6.5% of the votes winning them 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 members of parliament 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 members of parliament. 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.[citation needed]

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-ecologist LIVRE party. Left-wing 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.

On 10 November 2015, the Left Bloc signed an agreement with the Socialist Party that is aimed at identifying convergence issues, while also recognizing their differences.[16] The Bloc supported the minority Socialist Costa Government (2015–2019) with a confidence and supply agreement.