Although vested with sweeping - almost dictatorial - powers on paper, in practice Tomas was little more than a figurehead for his first decade in power. For most of the existence of the Estado Novo, Salazar, as prime minister, held the real power. <...> The virtual powerlessness of his office under Salazar made him little more than a decorative figure at inaugurations and festivities. This, together with a natural inability for speech, made him target of frequent jokes.
Tomas used his presidential prerogative just once during his first decade in office. In September 1968, Salazar was incapacitated by a severe stroke. Believing that Salazar did not have long to live, Tomas dismissed Salazar and appointed Marcello Caetano to succeed him. For all intents and purposes, the president's power to dismiss the prime minister had been the only check on Salazar's power. However, he never told Salazar about this, and Salazar reportedly died two years later still believing he was prime minister.