Mário Alberto Nobre Lopes Soares GColTE, GCC, GColL, KE (born 7 December 1924), Portuguese politician, served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1976 to 1978 and from 1983 to 1985, and subsequently as President of Portugal from 1986 to 1996.
Soares began his studies at Colégio Moderno, owned by his father. There, for a short period he was taught Geography by Álvaro Cunhal, who would later became the towering figure of Portuguese Communism and one of Soares' greatest political rivals.
While a student at University, Soares joined the Portuguese Communist Party, being responsible for the youth section. In this capacity, he organised demonstrations in Lisbon to celebrate the end of WWII. He was first arrested by PIDE, the Portuguese political police, in 1946, when he was a member of the Central Committee of the Movement of Democratic Unity (Movimento de Unidade Democrática), at the time chaired by Mário Azevedo Gomes. Soares was arrested twice in 1949. On those latter occasions, he was the secretary of General Norton de Matos, a candidate for the Presidency. However, he became estranged from Norton de Matos, when the latter discovered Soares's Communist sympathies.
Soares married Maria de Jesus Barroso Soares, an actress, in 22 February 1949, while in the Aljube prison, at the 3rd Conservatory of the Civil Register of Lisbon. They have a son, the former Lisbon Mayor João Soares, and a daughter, Isabel Barroso Soares, 9 January 1951, unmarried and without issue, who manages the Colégio Moderno.
Soares's multiple arrests for political activism made it impossible for him to continue with his career as a lecturer of history and philosophy. Therefore, he decided to study law and become an attorney.
In April 1964, in Geneva, Switzerland, Soares together with Francisco Ramos da Costa and Manuel Tito de Morais created the Acção Socialista Portuguesa (Portuguese Socialist Action). At this point he was already quite distant from his former Communist friends (having quit the Communist Party in 1951); his views were now clearly inclined to economic liberalism.
In March 1968, Soares was arrested again by PIDE, and a military tribunal sentenced him to banishment in the colony of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea. His wife and two children, Isabel and João, accompanied him. However, they returned to Lisbon eight months later for in the meantime dictator Salazar had been replaced by Marcello Caetano. The new dictator wanted to present a more democratic face to the world, so many political prisoners, Soares among them, were released.
In the 1969 general election, which was rigged, the democratic opposition (whose political rights were severely restricted) entered with two different lists. Mário Soares participates actively in the campaign supporting the Coligação Eleitoral de Unidade Democrática or CEUD (Electoral Coalition for Democratic Unity). CEUD is clearly anti-fascist, but they also reaffirmed their opposition to Communism.
In 1970, Soares was exiled to Rome, Italy, but eventually settled in France where he taught at the Universities of Vincennes, Paris and Rennes. In 1973, the Portuguese Socialist Action became the Socialist Party, and Soares was elected Secretary-General. The Socialist party was created under the umbrella of Willy Brandt's SPD in Bad Münstereifel, Germany, on 19 April 1973.
In the provisional government which was formed after the revolution, led by the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA), Soares became minister for overseas negotiations, charged with organising the independence of Portugal's overseas colonies. Among other encounters, he met with Samora Machel, the leader of Frelimo, to negotiate the independence of Mozambique.
Within months of the revolution however, it became apparent that the Portuguese Communist Party, allied with a radical group of officers in the MFA, was attempting to extend its control over the government. The Prime Minister, Vasco dos Santos Gonçalves, was accused of being an agent of the Communists and a bitter confrontation developed between the Socialists and Communists over control of the newspaper República.
The wave of left-wing sentiment which followed the 1974 revolution had now dissipated, and a succession of conservative governments held office until 1983, when Soares again became Prime Minister, holding office until late 1985. His main achievement in office was negotiating Portugal's entry into the European Union. Soares almost single-handedly turned public opinion around, for Portugal at the time was very wary of integration into the EU.
In the Portuguese presidential election, 1986, held in March, Soares was elected President of Portugal, beating Diogo Freitas do Amaral by less than 1% of the votes. He was reelected in 1991, this time with almost 70% of the votes. For most of his two terms in office Portugal was governed by the Social Democratic Party, led by Aníbal Cavaco Silva.
He devised the so-called Presidência aberta (open Presidency), a series of tours around the country, each addressing a particular issue, such as the Environment or a particular region of Portugal. Although generally well received by the public, some claimed that he was criticizing the government and exceeding his constitutional role. Others stated that the tours were in the style of medieval courts. Yet the name stuck for today's presidential initiatives of the same type.