The country’s municipal assemblies believe in a future with “much more negotiations with municipal executives”, if municipal councilors deign to report more regularly on their work and if municipal deputies are “more technically qualified” to fulfill their supervisory role, explains the president of the National Association of Municipal Assemblies (ANAM), Albino Almeida. “We want the people to perceive municipal assemblies as important as the Assembly of the Republic, by calling their executives to account”, specifies the official, in the antechamber of the second ANAM congress, which takes place this Saturday at Altice Forum Braga.
Two years after the first congress, in Mafra, the ANAM will count on 110 of the 308 presidents of a municipal assembly in a space of 900 seats to discuss the possible means of attenuating the “concentration of municipal power in the mayor”, a phenomenon that its leader calls it “judicialization of politics”. President of the Municipal Assembly of Vila Nova de Gaia since 2013, Albino Almeida argues that municipal auditors should explain the municipality’s accounts to the “local parliament”, upon request. ANAM also promises to develop a guide to guide the recruitment of deputies and their work, having traveled all over the country this year, with the exception of the Azores, an autonomous region with which the meeting was held by videoconference.
For the president of the association created in 2017, “strengthening the skills of municipal assemblies” and “training its members” can put an end to the “logic that parties impose everything on municipal assemblies”. Albino Almeida also predicts that the number of political forces represented and independent deputies will increase over the decade, more on the coast than in the interior, contributing to majorities that do not coincide with those of the executive. This happens, for example, in Lisbon, with the PS having an absolute majority in the Chamber, but an agreement with the BE to form a majority in the Assembly.
Uncontrolled CCDR Elections
During an event in which Catarina Marcelino, State Secretary for Equality and Citizenship and President of the Municipal Assembly of Montijo, by the PS, Hélder Silva, President of the Municipality of Mafra, by the PSD , and Diogo Feio, former member of the Assembly of the Republic and MEP by the CDS / PP, ANAM will also address the inspection of the five regional coordination and development commissions (CCDR), even due to the stimulus funds economic they will manage following covid-19, and will discuss the first elections for the organ, scheduled for October 13, a Saturday.
So far appointed by the government, the next presidents will be chosen by all the executives and municipal assemblies integrated into each CCDR, in a hitherto controversial process – the Prime Minister has already argued that this change is a first step towards regionalization, but there are some who disagree with the new law on the electoral process, such as Freire de Sousa, who refused to run again for the presidency of CCDR-Norte.
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Most mayors in municipal assemblies do not necessarily disagree with the elections themselves, but with the fact that voting takes place between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. across the country and not in one of the five annual sessions of each municipality, says Albino Almeida. “Aware that the government wants to say that it is the same thing on all sides, it ends up making each table of the municipal assembly an electoral table. There is a certain subordination of the body ”, declares the president of ANAM.
The unprecedented holding of elections for the CCDR is not a problem, but the lack of time for the municipal assemblies to scrutinize the candidates, chosen in a negotiation between António Costa and Rui Rio, yes, says António Cândido de Oliveira, retired professor at the University of Minho and a specialist in local democracy. “Candidates must say what they are proposing to do before assemblies. So there is a lot of opacity, ”he says. António Cândido de Oliveira also points out that the elections for the CCDR are one of the many steps that can be taken towards regionalization.
The author of the book “A Local Democracy”, published in 2005, considers it necessary to “temper presidentialism”, both in the CCDR and in the chambers, and maintains that the quality of local democracies is all the greater as “the organization and functioning of municipal assemblies ”. “Local democracy has worked, but there is still a long way to go. The president of the chamber must report to the assembly, ”he observes.