Personality SpotlightMario Soares:Portuguese Socialist leader

Mario Soares, who fought the pre-1974 dictatorship and communist attempts to seize power after Portugal's revolution, is known as 'the father of Portuguese democracy.'

A confirmed Socialist, Soares served as prime minister after the 1974 revolution and in a stunning political comeback became Portugal's first civilian head of state in 60 years by narrowly winning a runoff presidential election Sunday.


Although accused of leftist leanings, he is a pro-West politician who suffered under the pre-1974 dictatorship and was imprisoned 12 times on political grounds.

As a three-time prime minister, he was a strong advocate of continued American use of his country's military bases and active NATO membership.

Soares, a defender of European Community, led the opposition from 1970 to 1974 while in exile in France. He returned to Portugal to a hero's welcome following the bloodless military coup in 1974. Soares brought his Socialist Party from the underground and built it into a major political force.

Henry Kissinger, secretary of state at the time of Soares' return to power, warned him that he could become 'Portugal's Kerensky,' a reference to the first leader of revolutionary Russia who was overthrown by the Lenin-led Bolshevists.

Soares got along with the communists, serving alongside them in four makeshift post-revolutionary Cabinets as foreign minister and minister without portfolio. When the communists tried to seize control, Soares was instrumental in getting the moderate military wing to oust their radical armed forces rivals from key posts in 1975.


Forming a minority Socialist government in 1976 following Portugal's first free parliamentary elections in 50 years, Soares served as prime minister for 17 months before being voted out.

He led a second Cabinet in alliance with the Christian Democrats but remained as head of the government only five months because his conservative allies believed he had made a clandestine deal with the communists.

Another Cabinet was toppled last summer by the Social Democrats.

As prime minister, Soares had sought to absorb the 'excesses' of the revolution by returning land that had been seized from plantation owners and working to gain membership in the European Common Market.

Mario Alberto Nobre Lopes Soares was born in Lisbon on Dec. 7, 1924. He graduated from the University of Lisbon and the Sorbonne law school in Paris.

He was the son of a prominent educator and minister in Portugal's turn-of-the century governments. He stated his political career as an activist against the dictatorship while he was a university student. He helped form opposition groups and worked in the 1958 reform presidential campaign of Gen. Humberto Delgado. The general was assassinated in 1965.

After the Salazar regime prevented him from getting a teaching job, Soares set up a law practice in Lisbon.


Soares was imprisoned 12 times on political grounds and sent into exile, first to the African island of Sao Tome and then to France. He worked as a trial lawyer in defense of several prominent communists and national leaders from Portugal's African colonies.

He is married and the father of one son and one daughter.

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