Pedro Passos Coelho

This name uses Portuguese naming customs. The first or maternal family name is Mamede and the second or paternal family name is Passos Coelho.
Pedro Passos Coelho
118th Prime Minister of Portugal
In office
21 June 2011  26 November 2015
President Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Deputy Paulo Portas (2013–15)
Preceded by José Sócrates
Succeeded by António Costa
President of the Social Democratic Party
Assumed office
9 April 2010
Miguel Relvas (2010–11)
José Matos Rosa (2011–)
Preceded by Manuela Ferreira Leite
President of the Social Democratic Youth
In office
March 1990  December 1995
Preceded by Carlos Coelho
Succeeded by Jorge Moreira da Silva
Personal details
Born Pedro Manuel Mamede Passos Coelho
(1964-07-24) 24 July 1964
Coimbra, Portugal
Political party Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Fátima Padinha
(m. 1985; div. 2003)

Laura Ferreira
(m. 2005)
Children Joana
Residence Massamá, Sintra
Alma mater University of Lisbon
Lusíada University
Religion Roman Catholicism

Pedro Manuel Mamede Passos Coelho (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpeðɾu mɐnuˈɛɫ mɐˈmɛðɨ ˈpasuʃ kuˈeʎu]; born 24 July 1964) is a Portuguese politician who was the 118th Prime Minister of Portugal, in office from 2011 to 2015. He is the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Passos Coelho started very early in politics, becoming the national leader of the youth branch of the PSD. A business manager by trade, he led the XIX Governo Constitucional (19th Constitutional Government of Portugal) and the XX Governo Constitucional (20th Constitutional Government) as head of government from 21 June 2011 to 26 November 2015.

Early years

Pedro Passos Coelho was born in the parish of Sé Nova in Coimbra, Portugal, on 24 July 1964. He is the youngest son of a medical doctor, António Passos Coelho (born Vale de Nogueiras, Vila Real, Douro, 31 May 1926) and the woman he married in 1955, a nurse, Maria Rodrigues Santos Mamede (born Santana da Serra, Ourique, Baixo Alentejo, c. 1930). He has an older sister, Maria Teresa Mamede Passos Coelho, a medical doctor,[1] and an older brother, Miguel Mamede Passos Coelho, who was born with cerebral palsy.[2][3]

He spent his childhood in Angola—then one of Portugal's overseas possessions—where his father practised medicine. After the Carnation Revolution of 1974 and the independence of the territory as the People's Republic of Angola, he returned with his family to Europe and settled in Vila Real, Northern Portugal.

He started very early in politics, as a 14-year-old boy, and had a long and prominent career in the youth branch of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the JSD, where he was a member of the National Council (1980–1982). As a young student, his academic interests, vocations and ambitions were directed towards a future career in medicine, in order to follow his father and older sisters' steps, or instead mathematics. However, his largest ambition and vocation revolved around politics.


Passos Coelho moved to Africa at five years of age, and studied in basic schools of the cities of Silva Porto and later Luanda, in the former Portuguese territory of Angola, until the age of 10. His parents went to the Portuguese African territory of Angola to work there among the native rural populations who were plagued by tropical diseases such as tuberculosis. Firstly, Coelho studied in a nun-run Catholic school, then in the public school, and again in another Catholic school run by the Marist Brothers. Then, after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, and the dismantling of the Portuguese Overseas Empire in Africa, he returned to Europe, settling in his grandparents estate, in Valnogueiras, near the city of Vila Real, Norte Region, Portugal. In order to attend a secondary education institution in Vila Real, the Liceu Nacional Camilo Castelo-Branco (Camilo Castelo-Branco National High School), he moved to the city.[4] His father only rejoined the family in 1975, the year that Angola became an independent territory known as the People's Republic of Angola.

At the age of 19, Passos Coelho went to Lisbon in order to study mathematics at the University of Lisbon. This course was his second option after medicine at the same university, however he did not reach by a fraction the extremely high marks needed to be admitted in the Lisbon Medical School. Meanwhile, he had taught mathemathics at the Escola Secundária de Vila Pouca de Aguiar high school for a year (1982/1983). In Lisbon, he made a living by working as a part-time private mathematics tutor, and continued to develop his political career as a promising figure of the PSD youth branch (JSD). He was elected vice-president of JSD in 1987, and president in 1991. However, Coelho did not graduate in mathematics by the University of Lisbon. He had his first child when he was 24 years old (1988), just before he was married for the first time to Fátima Padinha, former member of girl band Doce.[5]

After dropping out the University of Lisbon he would enroll in 1999 for the Lusíada University from where he would be awarded a degree in economics in 2001, when he was 37 years old, and had already been member of the parliament between 1991–1999, among other attributions (he worked in a public relations capacity during the late 1980s in Qimibro, a metals broker and trading firm founded by José Manuel Bento dos Santos and Eduardo Catroga,[6] after invitation by a cousin who worked there).[7]

Political career

Starting very early in politics, he had a long career in the youth branch of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the JSD, where he was a member of the National Council (1980–1982) and Chairman of the Political Committee (1990–1995). He was a Lisbon deputy to the Assembly of the Republic in the VI and VII Legislatures (1991–1999); he also joined the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO (1991–1995) and was vice chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the PSD (1996–1999). In 1997, he ran for mayor of Amadora without success, but was elected municipal councillor (1997–2001). After has been member of the parliament from 1991 to 1999, Passos Coelho became eligible by law to a life pension, however, he declined the offer.

He was awarded a degree in economics by Lusíada University (Lisbon) when he was 37 (2001). He became a consultant with Tecnoformas (2000–2004), consultant of consultants LDN (2001–2004), Director of the Training Department and coordinator of the Program of Seminars URBE – Núcleos Urbanos de Pesquisa e Intervenção (2003–2004). He joined the company Fomentinvest[8] as a CFO (2004–2006) working with Ângelo Correia, chairman of Fomentinvest and also a noted member of the PSD. Correia, an experienced member of PSD, is a close friend of Passos Coelho, both inside their party and corporate governance careers, and is considered Passos Coelho's political mentor.[9][10] Passos Coelho became a member of the Executive (in 2007), accumulating the functions of chairman of the Board of the HLCTejo (2007–2009).

He was vice-president of the PSD during the leadership of Luis Marques Mendes (2005–2006) and has also been president of the Municipal Assembly of Vila Real Municipality since 2005; he was a presidential candidate for the PSD in May 2008, where he proposed for the first time a programmatic review of the party's orientation. Defeated by Manuela Ferreira Leite, he founded, with a group of his supporters, the think-tank Construir Ideias (Building Ideas). On 21 January 2010, his book Mudar ("To Change") was published, and he was again candidate for the leadership of the PSD for the direct elections in March 2010; he was elected president of the PSD on 26 March 2010.

By 2010, in a context of sovereign default, he helped defeat the Socialist government under the leadership of José Sócrates when it tried to adopt a package of austerity measures in order to maintain economic stability, leading to a vote of no confidence that removed the government on 23 March 2011, and the general election of 5 June 2011.[11]

Personal life

Passos Coelho lives in Massamá, Greater Lisbon. He was married to Fátima Padinha, a former singer with the girl band Doce, by whom he has two daughters, Joana Padinha Passos Coelho (born 1988) and Catarina Padinha Passos Coelho (born 1993), and he is now married to Laura Ferreira, a physiotherapy technician, born in Bissau, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau, West Africa),[12] by whom he has one daughter, Júlia Ferreira Passos Coelho (born 2007). Apart from his native language, he can speak some French and English.

Prime Minister of Portugal

Passos Coelho with then Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero, October 2011.

On 5 June 2011, after the Portuguese legislative election, Passos Coelho was elected Prime Minister of Portugal.[13] He achieved a historical win for his political party, the PSD, defeating José Sócrates of the Socialists. Through a coalition with CDS-PP, Passos Coelho and the PSD were in position to form a right-wing majority in the Portuguese Parliament. Immediately after the election, he started conversations with Christian-Democratic President Paulo Portas to form the coalition.


Passos Coelho's political program was considered the most liberal ever adopted by the PSD, and included a firm intention to accomplish the European Union/IMF-led rescue plan for Portugal's sovereign debt crisis. The rescue plan included widespread tax increases and reforms aimed at better efficiency and rationalized resource allocation in the public sector, in order to reduce the number of unnecessary civil servants and chronic public sector's overcapacity.[14] They also included the privatization of at least one channel of the public radio and television RTP network, the Caixa Geral de Depósitos' insurance operations, and some parts of the National Service of Health. His coalition partner Paulo Portas of CDS-PP, expressed publicly his disapproval for some of Passos Coelho's proposals. Passos Coelho entered office as a moderate social conservative, with a mixed record on abortion (he voted no in the 1998 referendum and yes in the following in 2007), while opposing euthanasia and same-sex marriage, supporting same-sex civil unions instead. It was not certain if he would try to overrule the previous José Sócrates-led Socialist government laws that allowed abortion until 10 weeks and same-sex marriage in Portugal. During the campaign, he admitted the reavaluation of the current abortion law[15] approved in 2007, after a referendum, that allowed it under any circumstance until 10 weeks of pregnancy. The law was deemed unconstitutional by 6 of the 13 judge members of the Portuguese Constitutional Court. Other creations of the previous cabinets led by former Prime Minister José Sócrates were criticized by Passos Coelho, including the state-sponsored Novas Oportunidades educational qualification program for unschooled adults, which was dubbed a fraud due to alleged low standards of intellectual rigor and academic integrity.[16]

Passos Coelho's government

From 21 June 2011 to 24 November 2015, Passos Coelho led the XIX Governo Constitucional (19th Constitutional Government). In the fifth vote of confidence the government faced, as called by Os Verdes, the government was scheduled to win a vote despite being opposed by the Communists, Left Bloc and Socialists (if it failed the government would not be able to have another vote). Despite attempts to form a national unity government, Socialist party whip Carlos Zorrinho said that the move was not with the government but that all parties were available for a possible new government. The motion by Os Verdes was initiated on 14 July 2013 during a state of the nation debate. Coelho said that the vote was "very welcome" and would serve as a vote of confidence.[17]


Paulo Portas and Vitor Gaspar resigned from the cabinet over the country's austerity programme. Though Coelho accepted it, he said that the government would continue with the measures and would seek to heal the rift with his coalition partners.[18]

Ministry Incumbent Term
Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas 24 July 2013 – 24 November 2015
Finance Vítor Gaspar 21 June 2011 – 1 July 2013
Maria Luís Albuquerque 1 July 2013 – 24 November 2015
Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas 21 June 2011 – 24 July 2013
Rui Machete 24 July 2013 – 24 November 2015
National Defence José Pedro Aguiar Branco 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Internal Administration Miguel Macedo 21 June 2011 – 19 November 2014
Anabela Rodrigues 19 November 2014 – 24 November 2015
Justice Paula Teixeira da Cruz 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Presidency and of Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas 21 June 2011 – 13 April 2013
Luís Marques Guedes 13 April 2013 – 24 November 2015
Economy Álvaro Santos Pereira 21 June 2011 – 24 July 2013
António Pires de Lima 24 July 2013 – 24 November 2015
Agriculture and Sea Assunção Cristas 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy Jorge Moreira da Silva 24 July 2013 – 24 November 2015
Health Paulo Macedo 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Education and Science Nuno Crato 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Solidarity, Employment and Social Security Pedro Mota Soares 21 June 2011 – 24 November 2015
Regional Development Luís Poiares Maduro 13 April 2013 – 24 November 2015

Major policies

In order to accomplish the European Union/IMF-led rescue plan for Portugal's sovereign debt crisis, in July and August 2011, his government announced it was going to cut on state spending and increase austerity measures, including additional tax increases, but it will also have a social emergency package to help the poorest citizens. As time went on it became increasingly clear that a series of supplementary measures would be taken during the course of the year as a means to restrain an out-of-control budget deficit. These included sharp cuts in spending on state-run healthcare, education and social security systems. His cabinet enforced reforms of the local administration to save money by avoiding unnecessary resource allocation and redundancy. This included extinguishing the 18 civil governments (Governo Civil) located across the country[19] and a large number of freguesias.[20] According to the Portuguese Statistics Bureau, there were 4,261 freguesias in Portugal as of 2006. The reform implemented according to Law 11-A/2013 of 28 January 2013, which defined the reorganization of the civil parishes, reduced the number of freguesias to 3,091.


During his first year in cabinet, it became clear that the deep economic and financial crisis of Portugal would prompt several policy changes and increasing dissent over the cabinet's judgement. After an inaugural speech in which he promised to stabilize the economy, promote financial growth, employment and protect the ones who needed the most, he moved on to adopt deep austerity measures that, within the first year of government, led to the exact opposite. In addition, his government had earlier adopted a promoting stance on emigration, often advising the growing number of young unemployed people to leave the country.[22] On 15 September 2012, Passos Coelho and his coalition government faced one of the biggest civil protests in the history of Portuguese democracy, where demands were made for solutions to be put in place. On 21 September 2012, while the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet were meeting with President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, a large number of protesters rioted in front of the presidential house, the Belém Palace, clashing with the security forces.[24]

Electoral history

PSD leadership election, 2008

Ballot: 31 May 2008
Candidate Votes %
Manuela Ferreira Leite
Pedro Passos Coelho
Pedro Santana Lopes
Patinha Antão
Blank Ballots
Invalid Ballots

PSD leadership election, 2010

Ballot: 26 March 2010
Candidate Votes %
Pedro Passos Coelho
Paulo Rangel
José Pedro Aguiar Branco
Castanheira Barros
Blank Ballots
Invalid Ballots


  1. (Portuguese) Zita Seabra, Três razões para apoiar Pedro Passos Coelho, Jornal de Notícias (21 March 2010)
  2. (Portuguese) Pedro Passos Coelho – Tragédia na Família, TV Guia (1 June 2011)
  3. (Portuguese) Perfil: Passos Coelho, um "liberal" na política desde a adolescência, Diário de Notícias (15 June 2011)
  4. (Portuguese) Pedro Passos Coelho. Um miúdo sério à solta no PSD, i online (3 April 2010)
  5. (Portuguese) Racional, gestor, tímido, barítono: Pedro Passos Coelho é um líder natural, "Aos 21 anos, foi viver com uma cantora das Doce, Fátima Padinha, por quem estava apaixonado, sem ter casado com ela. Ainda sem estar casado, teve a primeira filha". , Público (17 June 2011)
  6. (Portuguese) José Bento dos Santos, Grupo José de Mello
  7. (Portuguese) Biografia de Pedro Passos Coelho
  8. Fomentinvest SGPS
  9. (French) L'austérité n'attend point le nombre d'années, Courrier International (7 June 2011)
  10. (Portuguese) Ângelo Correia apoia Passos Coelho para liderar PSD, Público (28 May 2008)
  11. (Portuguese) Laura, mais do que a esposa de Pedro Passos Coelho, ASemana
  12. Guardian: Pedro Passos Coelho set for big election win as Portugal swings right 6 June 2011
  13. (Portuguese) Administração Pública obrigada a emagrecer 1% ao ano, (21 June 2011)
  14. (Portuguese)Pedro Passos Coelho Admits Reavaluation of the Current Abortion Law, Diário de Notícias, 26 May 2011
  15. (Portuguese) Passos Coelho promete reformular "escândalo" das Novas Oportunidades, Jornal de Negócios (16 May 2011)
  18. (Portuguese) Demissões aceleram extinção dos governos civis, Jornal de Negócios (22 June 2011))
  19. (Portuguese) Governo admite extinção de 1.500 freguesias, TVI24 (5 October 2011)
  20. (Portuguese) Gaspar: alternativa aos cortes seria saída de 100 mil funcionários públicos, Expresso
  21. 1 2 (Portuguese) Portugueses não querem um primeiro-ministro que lhe diga emigrem para o estrangeiro, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, ionline (19 December 2011)
  22. (Portuguese) Emigrem, mas legalmente, Edição das Sete, TVI24 (2011-12-27)
  23. (Portuguese) "Detidas já cinco pessoas frente ao palácio de Belém", Diário de Notícias (21 September 2012)

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