New Rules give more rights to single members and allow electronic voting of the State Budget

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The future Rules of the Assembly of the Republic, currently under revision, will extend the rights of the single deputies and allow, in the future, that the long discussion on the specialty of the State Budget may be done electronically.

The replacement text with the points already agreed upon was distributed to the parties today, but does not yet include the article on the return of fortnightly debates with the prime minister.

This was the point that set the tone for the revision of the Rules of Procedure and, although there is already consensus on the return of the fortnightly frequency as the rule in the next legislative session in September, the format of the reply is still under discussion.

In the text distributed today, to which Lusa had access, the coordinator of the working group, socialist Pedro Delgado Alves says that the articles already agreed upon will allow for progress in the first meeting, scheduled for Thursday, “and then add the missing items until the end.

Among the most significant changes, of particular note is the strengthening of the powers of the sole deputies – at the moment there are two, from the PAN and Livre – who now have the express right to speak in most debates, participate in the leaders’ conference, set five appointments per session or set two urgency debates and two topical debates per parliamentary term.

The Rules of Procedure, whose amendments have yet to be approved, will now provide that special voting on the State Budget “may be conducted using an electronic platform that allows for the submission and tabulation of votes,” but also “under terms to be regulated by plenary resolution, on a proposal from the President of the Assembly of the Republic, after hearing the standing committee responsible for the matter.

The new Rules of Procedure will detail the rules for the functioning of the friendship groups, determining that no deputy can belong to more than four and that the Foreign Affairs Committee will now be heard to determine their composition.

On the other hand, “parliamentary friendship groups can only be formed with countries with which Portugal has diplomatic relations and which have parliamentary institutions”, and their composition will be evaluated at the end of each legislative session.

The benches now have to give at least two weeks’ notice of the parliamentary sessions to be held, and multi-party sessions cannot be held simultaneously – as happened in this legislative session – without the consensus of all parties.

It will also be stated in the Rules of Procedure that parliamentary groups may make political statements every two weeks (which was the practice, but the Rules of Procedure said they were weekly) and that single members will increase the number of political statements they may make in each legislative session from five to six.

As a result of the experience of the covid-19 pandemic, the Rules of Procedure now allow the plenary or committees to function remotely “in exceptional, duly substantiated cases, authorized by the President of the Assembly of the Republic and under terms to be determined,” as well as the possibility of remote participation of deputies in the various parliamentary activities “when this is justified by transportation difficulties, or by absence on a parliamentary mission, illness or impossibility of physical presence or other justified reason, as long as it is communicated in advance.

Remote or anticipated remote voting will also be allowed, also “in exceptional cases, motivated by the impossibility of the physical presence of the deputy in the session room, namely due to presence in a parliamentary mission abroad, and provided that it is requested in advance.

In addition to many detailed changes in parliamentary deadlines, the new Rules of Procedure will detail the form of the urgency procedure and will determine that “all legislative initiatives are subject to public consultation through the Portuguese Parliament’s website.

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