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Mario Saores: 07/12/1924 – 07/01/2017

Mario Soares who was Portugal’s President from 1986 – 1996 and the country’s first elected Head of State for 60 years, has died aged 92.

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Mario Soares

In a statement to the European Parliament the outgoing President Schulz said : ‘Mr Soares fought oppression and dictatorship to bring about Portugal’s transition to democracy and accession to the European Community. It is our duty to honour and defend his political legacy. For Europe, Mr Soares was a prominent statesman, a visionary and pragmatic reformer and a staunch democrat. He was a member of the European Parliament’s S&D group from 1999 to 2004, and chaired various parliamentary bodies.

In Portugal, Mr Soares stood for resistance to dictatorship and symbolised the struggle for democracy. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister and President of Portugal, he was a key figure in its transition to democracy and accession to the European Community.’ Mr Schulz conveyed Parliament’s deepest sympathy to Mr Soares’ family, his friends and all those close to him, before holding a minute’s silence in respect.

Mario Soares’ father, João Lopes Soares (d. 1970), had been a liberal republican, often jailed or exiled during the dictatorship of António Oliveira Salazar. The young Soares studied at the University of Lisbon and at the Faculty of Law, Sorbonne, Paris, becoming a student activist and thereafter taking up a law practice defending political dissidents. By the time that the army-imposed right-wing dictatorship fell in 1974, Soares had been jailed 12 times and twice experienced exile.  In 1964 he and others founded the Portuguese Socialist Action, which by 1974 had transformed into the Portuguese Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Portuguesa).

From 1974 to 1975 Soares was foreign minister in the new but still military-controlled government and oversaw the negotiations for freeing Portugal’s overseas colonies. In 1976 he became the first constitutionally elected prime minister since the 1974 revolution (serving 1976, 1976–78, and 1983–85) and in 1986 became the first civilian head of state (president) since 1926, ending 60 years of army overlordship. Reelected in 1991, Soares was constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term, and he left office in 1996. He ran again for president in 2006 but finished third.

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