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Key facts on Portugal

Published on 02/06/2011

More than 9.6 million Portuguese citizens will on Sunday elect 230 members of parliament in an early general election sparked by the resignation in late March of Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates.

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION: Located in southwestern Europe, Portugal borders Spain on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula and includes two archipealgos in the North Atlantic — the Azores and the Madeira islands.

AREA: 92,000 square kilometres (35,500 square miles)

POPULATION: 10.6 million (2009 estimate)

CAPITAL: Lisbon (population 564,657 in 2001)

RELIGION: 85 percent Roman Catholic

HISTORY: A republic since a revolution overthrew of the monarchy in 1910, in 1926 a military coup put an end to 15 years of instability. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar became the head of the government in 1932 and the following year he installed a dictatorship of fascist inspiration.

On April 25, 1974 a military uprising toppled the regime, putting an end to 13 years of colonial wars in Africa.

In 1976 General Ramalho Eanes became the country’s first president to be elected through universal suffrage.

Ten years years later Mario Soares, a Socialist lawyer who had actively campaigned against the dictatorship, became Portugal’s first civilian president.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Parliamentary democracy. Socrates’s Socalists hold 97 seats in the 230-seat parliament. Socrates resigned on March 23 after all five opposition parties rejected his latest package of austerity measures.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a member of the main opposition centre-right Social Democrats (PSD), was re-elected in January 2011 to a second five-year term.

ECONOMY: In April Portugal, which is heavily indebted and mired in recession, became the third member of the euro zone after Greece and Ireland to request a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The 78-billion-euro (112-billion-dollar) loan spread out over three years is to allow it to reform its economy and reduce its public deficit from 9.1 percent of GDP last year to 3.0 percent in 2013.

The European Commission predicts the Portuguese economy will shrink by 2.2 percent in 2011 and by 1.8 percent in 2012.

The unemployment rate hit a record level of 12.4 percent at the end of March.

GDP: 172 billion euros (2010)

GDP per capita: 16,250 euros (2010)

PUBLIC DEBT: 160 billion euros or 93 percent of GDP (2010)

ARMED FORCES: Around 40,000 troops in 2009. Portugal is a founding member of NATO.

SOURCES: National Statistic Institute www.ine.pt