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  • People sing during a march marking the Carnation Revolution's 42 anniversary in Lisbon, Portugal April 25, 2016.

    People sing during a march marking the Carnation Revolution's 42 anniversary in Lisbon, Portugal April 25, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 April 2019

"None of us had ever heard of an army intervening to bring democracy, surely it's normally the other way round," Swiss journalist Werner Herzog said.

Thousands marched in Portugal Thursday to celebrate an almost bloodless revolution 45 years ago that ended the longest authoritarian regime in Europe’s history. However, politicians warn that economic and social developments have not lived up to the idealism of the uprising.

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On April 25, 1974, the Estado Novo, the corporatist authoritarian government that ruled Portugal at the time, crumbled from the Carnation Revolution in which hardly any blood was shed.

The revolt, led by idealistic young army officers, turned into a popular uprising when a civil resistance movement unexpectedly joined troops. Former dictator Antonio Oliveira Salazar, who had ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968, was responsible for the establishment of the Estado Novo, or the Second Republic of Portugal which fell to the mass uprising. Elections were held on the first anniversary a year after the regime fell.

"It was a coup like no other," said Swiss journalist Werner Herzog in 2014. Herzog, who covered the revolution at the time, said, "The atmosphere was more like a party. None of us had ever heard of an army intervening to bring democracy, surely it's normally the other way round."

The name comes from the seasonal flowers vendors handed out to soldiers by pacifist restaurant worker Celeste Caeiro, who became known as “Celeste dos cravos.” From her gesture, a red carnation became the symbol of the revolution.

"It was the most original revolution of the 20th century," veteran Socialist politician Jose Magalhaes told a parliamentary gathering during the 40 anniversary.

In Lisbon Thursday, protesters old and young marched through streets around the country shouting "Fascism, never again!”

In Porto, on the northern coast, demonstrators took over the main streets of Portugal's second-biggest city to hail the country's liberation and to demand more rights. General elections are coming up in October.

Holding a red carnation, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told a room in parliament packed with politicians and guests that more must be done to tackle the country's most pressing challenges.

"We want more, much more from our social, political and economic democracy," said Rebelo de Sousa. "Persisting inequalities continue to undermine cohesion between people, between groups and territories."

Catarina Martins, leader of the Left Bloc, which backs Prime Minister Antonio Costa's minority socialist government, told public broadcaster RTP there are "many battles left to win to achieve equality".

"We live in a country with such low wages and pensions," she said. "People do not know if they can make it to the end of the month." Portugal's minimum wage is fixed at 600 euros a month, compared with 1,050 euros in Spain.

Opposition leader Rui Rio also argued the country is in need of reform, especially around its electoral, political and justice system. "After (this year's election) political parties must consider a reform of the democratic regime in order for it to remain democratic," he said.

Costa's Socialists are expected to win October's election but may struggle to secure an outright majority.

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