The Liberal Initiative, often simply IL (Portuguese: Iniciativa Liberal, pronounced [inisjɐˈtivɐ liβɨˈɾal]) is a liberal political party in Portugal. Founded in 2017, it is currently led by Rui Rocha. The party has been described as being on the political right by academics and journalists.[10][11][12]

Liberal Initiative
Iniciativa Liberal
AbbreviationIL
PresidentRui Rocha
Secretary-GeneralMiguel Rangel
Vice presidentsBernardo Blanco
Angélique da Teresa
Ricardo Pais Oliveira
Ana Martins
Founded13 December 2017
HeadquartersAvenida do Bessa, 158 E 4100-012 Porto
Membership (2023)Increase 6,300[1]
IdeologyLiberalism
Social liberalism[2]
Neoliberalism[3]
Political positionCentre-right[4][5][6] to right-wing[7]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe[8][9]
Colours  Sky Blue
Assembly of the Republic
8 / 230
European Parliament
2 / 21
Regional
Parliaments
2 / 104
Local government
(Mayors)
0 / 308
Local government
(Parishes)
0 / 3,091
Election symbol
Party flag
Website
iniciativaliberal.pt

It has 8 elected members of the parliament out of a total of 230 seats in the Portuguese Parliament.[13]

The party was founded in December 2017, and in October 2019, its debut year at the Portuguese legislative elections, it won one seat in the Portuguese Parliament.[14] It had run in its first elections in May 2019 for the European Parliament and in 2020 supported its first government coalition, at regional level, after the 2020 Azorean regional election.[15]

The party espouses a libertarian-influenced economic platform, including support for a flat income tax, privatisations and liberalisation of the labour market.[16] However, it intends to preserve an equitable and universal welfare state to a certain extent.[17][18] In other dimensions of life, the party favours views aligned with cultural and secular liberalism.[19][20]

History

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The Liberal Initiative was founded as an association in 2016, and was approved as a party by the Constitutional Court in 2017.[21] It was admitted to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, a European political party, in November 2017,[22] having run for election for the first time in the 2019 European Parliament election in Portugal, garnering 0.9% of the votes, and failing to win any seats in the European Parliament.[23] In the 2019 legislative election, the party won a single seat in the Portuguese Parliament through the electoral district of Lisbon, earning 67,681 votes in total, equivalent to 1.3% of the votes cast.[14] At regional level, IL supported its first government coalition after the 2020 Azorean regional election.[15] In the 2021 Portuguese local elections, it won 26 seats in municipal assemblies, and none in municipal councils.[24] In the 2022 legislative election, the Liberal Initiative party increased the number of its MPs from one to eight with 5.0% of the vote.[25] Besides João Cotrim Figueiredo (already a MP at the Portuguese Parliament and incumbent party leader), IL elected seven new MPs for the party, including Carlos Guimarães Pinto (a former party leader), as MPs.

Ideology and platform

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The party has been described as liberal,[16][26] neoliberal,[27] liberal right,[28] classical-liberal,[29][failed verification] libertarian,[16][7][30][31][32] and social liberal.[33] It has been described as centre-right,[34][35] right-wing,[36][30][37][38][39][40] with its policy base described as combining economic liberalism with more progressive stances on cultural issues.[38][41]

According to its own official statements about this topic, the Liberal Initiative was founded with the Oxford Manifesto in mind and believes in individual freedom, by which all individuals have fundamental rights, including the possibility of having a life of their own, owning property or choosing how they want to live in their community, closely following the principles of classical liberalism.[29] The party's conception of freedom encompasses both the economic and social spheres as well as the political and individual spheres,[42] and believes that if any of them are restricted, freedom ceases to exist.[43][44][45][46] The party's political ideas are based on the idea of freedom as the greatest engine of human development, social harmony and economic prosperity.[43][47][48][20] The party's leaders and founders have ascertained that they envisage Portugal as a country that will model itself on Germany's multi-payer health care system – which is paid for by a combination of public health insurance and private health insurance – on Ireland's corporate tax policy and on Estonia's fiscal, educational, and public administration systems,[49][50] following classical liberal economic policies.

On 5 May 2018, the Liberal Initiative approved its political programme under the slogan "Less State, More Freedom" (Menos Estado, Mais Liberdade).[51] The party proposes the reduction of the number of civil servants and the extension of their health system to all Portuguese citizens, as well as extending the freedom for parents to choose their children's school without it necessarily being linked to their address.[52]

The party, which describes itself as a liberal party of all types of liberalism,[53] rejects to be simplistically described as a blind follower of the political philosophy of libertarianism, arguing that while it defends a small government and opposes economic interventionism in principle, it also defends an effective government which guarantees the rule of law, universal healthcare, universal education, social security and a welfare state.[54] The party said that it doesn't want to dismantle the Portuguese welfare state, but instead wants to "rationalize it" based on the principles of "sustainability and equity" by redefining its fairness proposition from the point of view of both social welfare beneficiaries/non-beneficiaries and taxpayers, regardless of age, current or previous occupation and other individual factors.[18][55][17]

Platform for the 2019 legislative election

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Among the measures announced for the 2019 parliamentary elections were:

  • Introducing a flat income tax rate of 15%.
  • Extending coverage by the ADSE [pt] ("Instituto de Proteção e Assistência na Doença") to all Portuguese citizens. This body is in charge of health care, and works like a health insurance, for the Portuguese civil servants only.
  • Providing freedom of choice of school in both the state-owned and privately owned systems, through a school-voucher system.
  • Granting more freedom for universities to define admission criteria, and following the American and British models for universities by adopting a student loan funding system.

Party factions

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The Liberal Initiative has a number of internal factions:[56][57][58]

 
Rui Rocha, current party leader.

Classical liberalism

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This faction defends opposition to socialism through classical liberalism, calling for a low tax burden and promoting "efficient, effective and accountable government", while defending respect for individual, social, political and economic freedoms.[59]

Social liberalism

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This faction adheres to the principles of social liberalism.[59] In 2024, a former candidate to the leadership of IL left it and is trying to establish a new party, the Social Liberal Party.[60]

Libertarianism

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The faction espouses an outright libertarian platform with neoliberal economic and political stances, whose proposals include support for a lower flat income tax, small government, unprecedented wave of privatisations and deeper economic liberalisation of the economy, including in the labour market, able to address modernisation and overstaffing issues in the civil service, productivity gaps and competitiveness problems of the country in the context of the European Union and globalization.[61][62]

Conservative liberalism

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The faction supporting Conservative liberalism, although being liberal on economic issues, is more conservative on social issues.[59] By 25 November 2023, most of the members from this faction had left the party,[63] with two joining Chega.[64][65]

Organisation, communication and style

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Outdoor.

The party is organised and managed in a decentralised, digitised way. It has no physical headquarters in most municipalities of the country and makes heavy use of information and communication technologies.[66] Since its foundation, the party made an impact through the acclaimed originality of its communication and marketing campaigns, in particular its eye-catching billboards.[67][68]

Electoral results

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Assembly of the Republic

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Vote share in the Portuguese legislative elections

Election Leader Votes % Seats +/- Government
2019 Carlos Guimarães Pinto 67,681 1.3 (#8)
1 / 230
New Opposition
2022 João Cotrim de Figueiredo 273,687 4.9 (#4)
8 / 230
  7 Opposition
2024 Rui Rocha 319,877 4.9 (#4)
8 / 230
  0 Opposition

European Parliament

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Election Leader Votes % Seats +/-
2019 Ricardo Arroja 29,120 0.9 (#11)
0 / 21
New
2024 João Cotrim de Figueiredo 357,825 9.1 (#4)
2 / 21
 2

Regional Assemblies

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Region Election Leader Votes % Seats +/- Government
Azores 2024 Nuno Barata 2,482 2.2 (#5)
1 / 57
 0 Opposition
Madeira 2023 Nuno Morna 3,555 2.6 (#6)
1 / 47
 1 Opposition

Local elections

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Election Leader Votes % Councillors +/- Mayors +/- Assemblies +/- Parishes +/-
2021 João Cotrim Figueiredo 64,849 1.3 (#8)
1 / 2,064
New
0 / 308
New
26 / 6,448
New
45 / 26,797
New

Presidential elections

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Election Candidate Votes %
2021 Tiago Mayan Gonçalves 134,991 3.2 (#6)

Assembly of the Republic

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15th Legislature (2022 – 2024)
14th Legislature (2019 – 2022)

List of presidents

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Name Portrait Constituency Start End Prime minister
1 Miguel Ferreira da Silva
(b. 1972)
  Lisbon 26 November 2017 13 October 2018 António Costa (2015–2024)
2 Carlos Guimarães Pinto
(b. 1983)
  Porto 13 October 2018 8 December 2019
3 João Cotrim de Figueiredo
(b. 1961)
  Lisbon 8 December 2019 22 January 2023
4 Rui Rocha
(b. 1970)
  Braga 22 January 2023 present
Luís Montenegro (2024-present)
Rui RochaJoão Cotrim de FigueiredoCarlos Guimarães Pinto


References

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