Key points on local elections in Portugal

  • Lusa
  • 2 September 2021

Portugal's next local elections are scheduled for September 26 and will take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time.

More than 9.3 million voters can vote on September 26 in the Portuguese local elections, in which there are more than 20 parties and more than 60 citizens’ groups.

Here are some details of the electoral process and the candidatures presented:


Based on campaign budgets submitted to the Office of Political Finance and Accounts, it appears that more than 20 parties are running, alone or in coalitions, in the local elections.

Of the 308 municipalities in the country, according to the budgets presented, only 64 have citizen group candidacies, and in. Infour municipalities, there are two movements each: Albufeira (in the district of Faro), Sabrosa (Vila Real), Redondo (Évora) and Castelo de Paiva (Aveiro).


Some 9,306,120 voters can vote to choose the members of the 308 municipal councils and municipal assemblies and the 3,091 parish assemblies (in Corvo there is no such body).

9,278,234 citizens can vote in these elections, 12,711 from the European Union and 15,175 other foreigners residing in Portugal.

In the 2017 ballot, 9,396,680 voters were registered, 90,560 fewer than in 2021, of which just over half voted, as the abstention rate recorded was 45%.


With a date set by the government, the local elections take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time on September 26  (the Azores have one hour less than the mainland and Madeira). The official campaign takes place between 14 and 24, according to the calendar published by the National Elections Commission (CNE), the official site.

On 26 September, after the electoral act, the local tabulation notice is posted immediately outside the polling station, and the results are communicated to the parish council or officially designated entity.

The general tabulation begins on September 28. The official map with the result of the elections must be published in the state journal within 30 days of receiving the minutes of all the general tabulation assemblies.

The provision of campaign accounts by candidates before the Entity for Political Finance and Accounts will have to be made within a maximum of 90 days, after full payment of the public subsidy in the case of municipal elections.

Voting in Lockdown

Voters in compulsory lockdown because of Covid-19 or who reside in residential structures cannot leave because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They can vote on September 21 and 22, according to the schedule released by the CNE.

In these cases, the mayor of the municipality where they are registered, or in their place, a councillor or accredited municipal official will go to the citizen’s address.

The application to vote in this context is made between September 16 and 19, through the electronic platform with the address, provided by the General Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Administration.

“If you cannot register on the electronic platform, someone who represents you may request to register, within the same timeframe, at your parish council by showing a simple power of attorney, accompanied by a copy of the applicant’s civil ID document,” the Voter’s Portal stated.

Other Early Voting

Voters who for professional reasons are unable to vote on polling day, such as military personnel, members of the security forces and services and civil protection agents, members of official state delegations travelling abroad, long-distance sea, air, rail and road workers and representatives of national teams officially competing in sports competitions, can also vote in advance.

To vote, these voters can apply to the municipality’s mayor where they are registered, between 16 and 21 September, expressing their wish to exercise their right to vote beforehand.

Patients prevented by hospitalisation from going to the polling station, students registered in educational institutions in a district, autonomous region or island other than the one where they should vote, and voters who are imprisoned without deprivation of political rights may request until 6 September, electronically or by post, early voting to the mayor of the municipality where they are registered.

Votes will be collected in hospitals, prisons and educational establishments from September 13 to 16.


According to the campaign budgets submitted to the Entity for Political Finance and Accounts, the parties and coalitions plan to spend a total of €31 million on the municipal election campaign in September, down from 35 million four years ago. The Socialist Party (PS) continues to have the highest budget with €11.43 million.

The campaign budgets of the citizens’ groups running in the local elections totalled €2,639,120.7. If this amount is added to the €31 million that the parties intend to spend, alone or in coalitions, the expenditure on the election campaign is more than €33.6 million, down from around €39 million in 2017.

The campaign in the municipality of Lisbon is expected to be the one in which parties and coalitions will spend the most, a total of €795,000, while for Porto, €517,000 are budgeted.

Changes in Municipal Executives

With these elections, six municipalities will have fewer councillors in the municipal executive, due to a decrease in registered voters since the previous local elections, according to data from the CNE.

The municipalities that lose seats in their respective councils are Vinhais and Mogadouro, in the district of Bragança, the municipality (and district capital) of Vila Real, the municipality of Fafe, in Braga, Pombal, in Leiria, and Vendas Novas, in Évora.

They all lose two mandates each. Vinhais, Mogadouro and Vendas Novas keep five, and Vila Real, Fafe and Pombal keep seven.

On the contrary, and by only three voters, Portimão, in Faro, will have a bigger executive, which goes from seven to nine elements (the president and eight councillors), because this Algarve county has gone from 48,497 registered voters to 50,003 since the 2017 elections.

The number of mandates of each local authority body is defined according to the voter registration results, obtained through the central voter registration database and published by the Ministry of Internal Administration in the state journal.

According to the electoral registers, the number of registered voters in the municipalities does not correspond to the resident population of these territories.

The law in force establishes that the municipal executive is composed of five members in municipalities with 10,000 or fewer voters; seven members in municipalities with more than 10,000 voters and up to 50,000; nine members in chambers with more than 50,000 and up to 100,000 voters, and 11 members when the registered population is greater than 100,000.

The decrease in the number of voters and the reduction in the number of elements of the municipal executive implies the reduction of financial transfers from the Central Administration through the State Budget, on which the smaller municipalities depend.