Group Blog # 5: Brazilian Electoral System (Phil, Divya & Ivan)
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The country of
Before proposing modifications to the current system, however, these issues must be addressed. The following are the three detrimental problems regarding Brazilian democracy and the factors that cause them:
Lack of Political Ideology and Clientelism
Many Brazilian political parties have indistinct, and some even non-apparent, political ideologies, stemming from, and further continuing, clientelism and patronage in Brazilian politics. The lack of platforms and party philosophy require politicians and governing officials to be more personalized, and this breeds corruption since politicians will provide favors, mostly financial, to gain support from the general public or from specific groups. Quite often, once these officials are in power, they will be extremely tempted to use the additional resources at their disposal to maintain their voter base, either for reelection or further political advancement. This philosophy strays from democracy because the most wealthy and connected, the “bom de voto”, are elected to office instead of the most qualified individuals. Not only does this factor tie the politician to the people, it is also what ties him/her to a political party. Without regulations for party loyalty, removed in 1985, politicians will move between political parties whenever they are offered the best atmosphere to succeed. Hence, parties will always look to recruit the most charismatic and promising candidates. For instance, from 1987 to 1995, there were an estimated 459 cases of party defection. Such instability only increases the lack of political ideology within each party (Brazilian Politics, Alfred P. Montero).
Clientelism and lack of ideology can mostly likely be attributed to the military rule of
Political Fragmentation (Too Many Political Parties)
In the 2002 elections, 30 political parties participated in deputy and Senate elections. This inordinate amount of political parties ties in with the clientelism and little political ideology and is comparable to a World Cup group of death, as there are no clear cut winners, and all of these parties fiercely compete against each other, distributing the votes, preventing a clear majority. In the deputy/Senate elections of 2002, 17 parties received less than 1% of the vote, and the party with the majority, Lula’s Worker’s Party, only received 18.4% of the vote (“Elections in Brazil”, Wikipedia.org). Basically, by buying or persuading these voters, the groups prevent a true government of the people. Instead, what results is a disjointed government of businessmen. And the unnecessary 17 parties mentioned above simply serve to waste a the people’s votes; recognizing that they have little to no support, these politicians should pull out of the election instead of diluting it. That the majority party cannot even secure a sizeable portion of the vote indicates that the resulting government is full of division, making conflict more likely. If such fragmentation were to spread to the presidential election, which already had 6 candidates in 2002 (“Elections in
Why the excess number of parties? Once again, the military rule that ended in the 1980’s seems to be the culprit. As stated before, the government created a pro and anti-government party, but as the military power became more and more unpopular, the antigovernment party was gaining too much support to the military’s liking. In order to disorganize and split this opposition, the military government, in 1979, split the MDB into four parties, despite their close similarities in ideology (what little there was). Thus, the government set the precedent for overcrowding elections with unnecessary parties, by which is meant parties that should have combined to work as a single group. Furthermore, throughout most of the entire military regime, the military restricted the formation of political groups as well as controlled all existing parties. Thus, when military rule came to an end, all existing political groups symbolized and were associated with the military, and were thus left with a difficult time in mustering support. This, and the fact that people were given the freedom to create political parties as they chose, created an atmosphere that encouraged the additional creation of political groups, which the people carried out to an extreme (Brazilian Politics, Alfred P. Montero).
Under the concept of proportional representation, the greater population an area of the country has, the greater number of representatives that area should have. In essence, every representative should represent the same amount of constituents. Based on strictly proportion, the state of
The cause of this problem is very simple and straightforward, as it is the result of a flaw in
In response to these problems, our group has a few particular modifications, and they are as follows:
Extension of the President and Vice-President’s terms from four to six years.
In May 1994,
Limit party-switching and coalition formation.
Political parties play a central role in maintaining accountability in modern democracies. Most citizens face severe information problems because, quite often, the masses do not monitor daily activities within the legislature. Thus, political parties provide a link between citizens and representatives. With well-defined, stable party labels that have a “garra interna”, a Uruguayan term for internal strength, citizens can bypass day-to-day activities in the legislature but still cast an accurate vote on Election Day. Thus, parties should act as information providers by providing indicators for political directions, and party switching destroys party utility for voters because voters never know if a deputy will remain or switch to a new party.
Party switching has long been popular in
Coalitions are very important for proportional representation elections in
By mandating that coalitions must remain in place for at least three years after elections, party formation will be strengthened and the power of individual elites will be lessened. By limiting party-switching and coalition formation to every three years, party delegations would have to remain together for a much longer period of time, and thus, they would be more stable and cohesive. Party loyalty would be strengthened via this system because the legislators’ campaigns would be controlled by the party rather than by the individual to ensure that deputies follow through on their platforms. Also, this mechanism allows for the formation of coalitions so that small parties still have a voice by engaging in coalition formation.
Abolish the open-list system and enact closed-party list proportional representation.
While most nations employ a closed list mechanism,
With this type of system, voters can only vote for political parties as a whole and thus, they have no influence on the order in which the party candidates are elected. In these systems, parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats get allocated to each party in proportion to the number of votes the party receives. Voters vote directly for the party, and the order in which the party's candidates get elected are pre-determined by the party. The party or coalition could informally host primaries to select their candidates and determine the rank order on the list.
One of the main features of the system of open-list proportional representation for the Chamber of Deputies is that it induces extremely competitive elections. For example, in 2002 a total of 4,901 candidates stood for the 513 seats in the Chamber. In only nine of the 27 districts were there fewer than 100 candidates; the lowest number was 66 for eight seats in
As a result, with this system, parties would thus be strengthened and elections would take place among parties instead of individual candidates. Thus, candidates with access to large sums of money and who are highly clientelistic would no longer be favored with the open list system (www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esy/esy_br).
To resolve the issue of malapportionment in
The Chamber of Deputies has 513 members who represent 27 multi-member electoral districts. Their magnitude is determined by population, and no state can have fewer than eight or more than 70 representatives.
The rules for the Chamber of Deputies elections are controversial within the Brazilian electoral system. Mandating the minimum and maximum size of electoral districts means that representation in the Chamber is uneven between the states. Clearly, this violates the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote’. For example, the number of votes necessary to elect one representative in São Paulo, which has over 25 million voters and 70 seats, is ten times higher than it is in Amapá, which has about 290,000 voters and eight seats. Hence, this malapportionment benefits the less populous states, which tend to be poorer and more reliant on agriculture, and it is disadvantageous to the larger states, which are richer and more industrialized.
However, there are proponents of the present system. The state of
Thus, equally distributing members within the electoral districts will solve the problem of malapportionment within the Brazilian states (www.aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esy/esy_br).
Mandate that the Ministerio, the Cabinet of
Currently, the President selects the Cabinet members of the Brazilian Ministry, and these selections do not need to be approved by the Senate. However, in order to fully engage the public in the democratic process of the electoral system, we propose a change to this rule. Because the President’s Cabinet holds powerful positions within government, we suggest that all Cabinet member positions require approval by the Senate.