Former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio died on Friday September 10 in Lisbon, his family told Lusa news agency. He was 81 years old. Secretary General of the Socialist Party, Mayor of Lisbon then Head of State between 1996 and 2006, Mr. Sampaio suffered from heart problems and had been hospitalized since the end of August.
Born in Lisbon in 1939 into a bourgeois family, he entered politics during his law studies, as one of the leaders of the 1962 university strikes against the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar (1932-1968). Once he became a lawyer, he defended several political prisoners.
Elected president in the first round, in 1996
In 1978, four years after the “Carnation Revolution” which put an end to the dictatorship, Jorge Sampaio joined the Socialist Party founded by Mario Soares, his predecessor as President of the Republic from 1986 to 1996. For a long time he became a secretary. general of the party in 1989 and, in the same year, won the city hall of Lisbon with the support of the Communists. Defeated in the 1991 legislative elections, he took his revenge by winning the 1996 presidential election in the first round against his right-wing rival, Anibal Cavaco Silva.
Jorge Sampaio remains in Portuguese political history as the one who, in November 2004, stepped out of his largely honorary role by deciding to dissolve Parliament and call early parliamentary elections, deeming the Social Democratic government incapable of facing up to economic crisis. The former lawyer had refused to resign himself to this measure four months earlier, when the center-right prime minister, José Manuel Durao Barroso, had resigned to take the presidency of the European Commission. The legislative elections of February 2005 had enabled the Socialists to win an absolute majority.
End of diplomatic career
However, in January 2006, at the end of his mandate, a cohabitation took place with the election of the first right-wing president since 1974, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who succeeded him as president (2006-2016).
After his second term, Mr. Sampaio became, at age 66, special envoy for the United Nations’ Stop TB initiative. He then held the post of high representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, whose aim is to promote initiatives aimed at overcoming the misunderstandings between cultures and religions.
Most recently, Mr. Sampaio, a father of two, ran an international platform supporting Syrian students.