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Group: Norberto, Ryan, Derek

Electoral system:  The means by which legislative seats are filled. Compromises three components: a districting system, and electoral formula, and a balloting method.

Brazil elects on the national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a four-year term by the people. The National Congress (Congresso Nacional) has two chambers.

The Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados) has 513 members, elected for a four-year term by proportional representation.  Elections are based on a complex system of proportional representation by states. The seats are allotted proportionally according to each state's population, but each state is eligible for a minimum of eight seats and a maximum of 70 seats. The result is a system slightly weighted in favor of smaller states.

The Federal Senate (Senado Federal) has 81 members, elected for an eight-year term, with elections every four years for alternatively one-third and two-third of the seats.  There are three senators from each state and three from the Federal District, elected on a majority basis to serve eight-year terms. Elections are staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and the remaining one-third four years later.

Both houses of Congress meet in a purpose-built legislative palace in the centre of Brasília. Fifteen political parties are currently represented in Congress. Since it is common for politicians to switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties changes regularly.

Brazil has a multi-party system, with numerous parties in which often no one party has a chance of gaining power alone, and so must work with each other to form coalition governments.

Historical Background

Empire/Kingdom, 1830 – 1889

  • “Old” Republic, 1889 – 1930
    • Oligarchy System
    • Pact “café com leite:”  Presidency alternated between governors of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais
  • Estado Novo, 1930 – 1945
    • Getulio Vargas
      • Emergence of Rio Grande do Sul
    • Creates official party and official opposition
      • Beginning of the top-down political party system of Brazil
      • No ideology or party discipline
  • Second Republic, 1945 – 1964
    • Party system opened
    • Political participation increased
    • Suffrage expanded
  • Authoritarian Regime of 1964 – 1985
    • Two-party system until late 70’s
    • Multiparty system
      • Created to help the military regime maintain power
      • Strategy:  divide the opposition!
        • Law prohibiting coalitions and alliances
      • This further engrained the lack of party ideology and party discipline
  • Democracy, 1985 – present
    • Extreme multiparty system, more than 40 parties
    • The historical lack of ideology and party discipline is maintained
      • One exception, the PT (until 2005?)


Identified Problems 

  1. Number of parties (40+) and lack of strict party ideology:  Since 1930, all parties created by the state, which had the actual purpose of maintaining power
    1. One exception:  PT
    2. Gives rise to corruption

                                                               i.      Politicians for sale, pay to join a party

                                                             ii.      Means also politician is for sale:  pay-offs and bribery

    1. Parties never created or supported by civil society (university groups, NGO’s, businesses, unions, etc.)
     2. Malapportionment
    1. Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janiero underrepresented

                                                               i.      The bulk of the population, but limited to maximum of 70 seats in Chamber of Deputies, and only 3 in senate

    1. The less populous states (ie ones out in the amazon) have at least 8 seats in Chamber of Deputies
    2. Reasons?

                                                               i.      Vargas remembered the alternating presidency of the governors during the Old Republic, created strict electoral laws to reverse this problem and make sure it didn’t happen again

1.      impede dominance of a few states

Proposed Solutions

 1.      People need to start supporting parties, force parties to have some sort of ideology

a.       No Open-list!  Closed-list instead.

                                                   i.      With closed list, people are forced to vote for a party, which if parties want to get people’s votes, need to have an ideology



Futebol metaphor

A real “torcedor” always supports his team no matter who’s playing for it.

(You are born a Corinthiano.  If Tevez switches to Palmeiras, your heart remains with Corinthians.)


2.      Minimum number of votes to get seats in congress

a.       Right now - no minimum!

b.      Impose 3% minimum vote gathered to have seats

                                                   i.      Why 3%?  We feel 5% is too high for such a heterogeneous society with a multiparty system.


Futebol metaphor

You have to have to be tough to play with the big dogs.

(It would ruin the Brasileirao if C teams played A teams.  To be an A team, you need the X-factor, the 3%)


3.      Remove the seat cap of 70.  Right now this would only affect Sao Paulo, so it would not make a huge difference in the short term.  This is good, because as our data shows, the malapportionment is not severe, and only a slight change is needed to fix it.1

a.       total

                                                   i.      186,112,794 population

                                                 ii.      513 seats

b.      Sao Paulo

                                                   i.      37,032,403

                                                 ii.      70

c.       Minas Gerais

                                                   i.      17,891,494

                                                 ii.      53

d.      Rio de Janeiro

                                                   i.      14,391,282

                                                 ii.      46

e.       Bahia

                                                   i.      13,070,250

                                                 ii.      39

f.        Rio Grande do Sul

                                                   i.      10,187,798

                                                 ii.      31

g.      Percentage of total of 5 states

                                                  i.      50% of population

                                                ii.      47% of the seats

 Futebol metaphor

Don’t keep your star player on the bench - maximize your talents, seize your potential.


4.      President directly elected

a.       Brazil has no tradition of presidential primaries , although the PMDB may hold one”.2

b.      Implement required Presidential Primaries for all parties

c.       In order to vote in a primary, the voter has to be registered with that party.

                                                   i.      Increase party loyalty and party power

                                                 ii.      Reduce mindset of voting for the person, instead of party


Futebol metaphor

The captain of the futebol team is voted by the players, not appointed by the coach.



5.      Time before an election when politicians can’t switch parties:  increase to 2 years (from 1 year)

a.       In conjunction with the required primaries, this significantly increases politician’s party loyalty


Futebol metaphor

Players have a contract with a team.  Break a two-year contract - pay the consequences.

Once you play on a World Cup team, you can’t switch.  Be wary of Politicians who switch parties.


  1. Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies official website,
  2. Economist,
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