The Portuguese Constitutional Court and Its Austerity Case Law
The Portuguese Constitutional Court (CC) played a pivotal role during the financial crisis that hit Portugal hard after 2008, especially during an international bailout that prevented the country’s bankruptcy. The strict conditionality imposed by the Memorandum of Understanding commanded national policies aimed at a sharp expenditure reduction that were brought under constitutional review by both political and legal litigants. The invalidation of some of these policies and the fiscal gap created by the rulings took by surprise not only the executive and the legislature but also the international institutions involved in the financial assistance programme. In this chapter I address the role of the CC during the financial crisis. I claim that the Government should have taken seriously the risk posed by the Constitution and its judicial interpretation to the financial assistance program. I also address the Court’s action in a comparative perspective. I conclude that the Court’s bold case law may present not only a future risk to the institution but also a shield of protection against temptations to restrict its scope of action.
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