Joana Marques Vidal will not be re-appointed. The job belongs now, by virtue of the President's nomination, to Lucília Gago, ex-director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (DIAP).
Last Thursday, the new holder of the state attorney general title was announced: the position belongs now to Lucília Gago, “whom shall start the mandate on the 12th of October”, according to the announcement on the President’s official website.
“The President has always defended the limitation of mandates, in honour of the vitality of democracy, credibility of the institutions, and renewal of styles of administration, in order to maintain the sustainability of the values and principles by which these persons abide”, the announcement read.
The note from Belém also said that Lucília Gago “guarantees that her role in the Public Ministry will be to guarantee a continuity in the defence ideas the office has, also by continuing to fight against corruption, with the idea of equal rights and the feeling of more fairness in the Portuguese society, with her mandate being centred in the ideas that founded our democratic institutions, without favouring anyone, without any biased decision-making. We will have someone as dedicated as Joana Marques Vidal.”
The President also made public the letter that the Prime-Minister had sent, in which he officially proposed Lucília Gago for the job, in which the reasons for the government’s choice are stated. “Continuity, autonomy, separation of powers, a long and single mandate for the attorney-general”, are some of the reasons mentioned in the letter, and they were in line with Carlos César’s (Parliamentarian leader of the Socialist party) pieces of advice, which indicated that the choice should go to someone with experience in the Public Ministry.
The same letter showed that the attorney general’s mandate “should be long and a one-time mandate” so that the person in the office can “have an unbiased attitude with those who nominated him/her”. António Costa sustained his argument referencing many institutions, such as the Syndicate of Prosecutors of the Public Ministry, and the European Commission for the Rule of Law, the consulting body of the European Council”, that abide by the rule of limiting the attorney’s general mandate to a single time only office position.
These last few weeks, there was a lot of tension and debate regarding the re-election of Joana Marques Vidal for the position of attorney-general, given that the Portuguese Constitution did not specify clearly whether the AG’s position should or not get a second mandate.
To wrap up the discussions, the President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced last Thursday that the successor to the position would indeed be Lucília Gago, therefore dissipating the issue of a re-election of the previous AG.
The Constitution does not make any clear impediment regarding the re-election of the AG for a new mandate – it provides powers to the government and the President, which should suggest the nominee, and accept/refuse the nomination, respectively. Nonetheless, in January, the Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem defended that the law is predicting that the attorney general should serve a “single term”. This made the discussion about the nomination start and made it for the first time, a partisan issue.
Last week the Portuguese newspaper Expresso announced that the election of the AG had been already agreed between the President and the prime minister and that the announcement ought to be made in the days after the government’s official visit to Angola, and after the Miniter of Justice had heard all parties positionings on the matter.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa claims that he “never showed, publicly or privately, any positioning regarding the nomination of the attorney general” and that he “always confirmed that that would only be subject to his appreciation after the submission of the PM’s decision for who would carry on the role of AG”.
The new attorney general of the Public Ministry was the head of DIAP Lisbon (Central Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution), between January 2016 and January 2017.
Before assuming that role, the new AG had already been investigating crimes in the context of public office positions, money laundering, and financial-economic criminality. In 2017 she became responsible for founding a Cabinet which coordinated, nationwide, judges in the area of Youth, Childhood and Families, inserted in the context of the Attorney General office.
Lucília Gago is 62 years old and she was Joana Marques Vidal’s personal choice for DIAP Lisbon in January 2016, and she was also always known for her aversion to the media landscape. AT CEJ (Center Judiciary Studies) she conducted a research about “The sociologic, psychologic, and judiciary implications of the phenomenon of domestic violence”. She was a member of the Newsroom Council from both the Public Ministry and the CEJ.
Last Wednesday, the minister of Justie heard the parliamentary parties in a special audit, in order to discuss the continuity of Joana Marques Vidal in the position of attorney general — with the only one agreeing with the re-election being the party CDS-PP, Christian Democrats.