Politics of Brazil

Politics of Brazil

Politics of Brazil takes place in a framework of a federal presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Brazil is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Congress. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Brazil is divided into 26 states and a federal district.

Government of Brazil

Executive branch

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Worker's Party
1 January 2003
José Alencar Gomes da Silva
elected by the Liberal Party, now in the Brazilian Republican Party
1 January 2003The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches.The president holds office for four years, with the right to re-election for an additional four-year term, and appoints his own cabinet.

Legislative branch

The bicameral National Congress or "Congresso Nacional" consists of
# the Federal Senate or "Senado Federal", which has 81 seats -- three members from each state or federal district elected according to the principle of majority to serve eight-year terms; one-third elected after a four year period, two-thirds elected after the next four-year period; and
# the Chamber of Deputies or "Câmara dos Deputados", which has 513 seats; deputies are elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms one may serve for either chamber of the legislature.

The seats are allotted proportionally 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 weighted in favor of smaller states.

Fifteen political parties are represented in Congress.Since it is common for politicians to switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties changes regularly.

Judicial branch

Brazilian jurisdiction courts function under civil law and adversarial system. The Judicial branch is organized in states' and federal systems with different jurisdictions.

The judges of the courts of first instance take office after public competitive examination. The second instance judges are promoted among the first instance judges. The Justices of the superior courts are appointed by the president for life and approved by the Senate. All the judges and justices must be graduated in law. Brazilian judges must retire at the age of 70.

tates' judicial branch

The country is divided into judicial districts named "comarcas", which are composed of one or more cities. Each "comarca" has at least one court of first instance. There are specialized courts of first instance for family litigation or bankruptcy in some cities and states. Judgments from theses district courts can be the subject of judicial review following appeals to the courts of second instance.

Judgments of courts of first instance are usually made by only one judge. The Brazilian judiciary system uses jury trials only for judging crimes against the person.

In all Brazilian states, there is one court of second instance, named the Justice Tribunal ("Tribunal de Justiça" in Portuguese). Some states, as São Paulo and Minas Gerais, used to have Courts of Appeals ("Tribunal de Alçada") too, but with different jurisdictions. The highest court of a state is the Justice Tribunal.

Second instance judgments are usually made by three judges, who, in the Justice Tribunals, are named "desembargadores".

Federal judicial branch

The national territory is divided into five regions, which are composed of one or more states. Each region is divided in Judiciary Sections ("Seções Judiciárias" in Portuguese) with a territory that may not correspond to the states' comarcas.

The Judiciary Sections has federal courts of first instance and each region has a Federal Regional Tribunal ("Tribunal Regional Federal") as a court of second instance.

There is a special federal court system for labor litigations called Labor Justice ("Justiça do Trabalho") with its own courts.

uperior Courts

There are two national superior courts that grant writs of certiorari in civil and criminal cases: the Superior Justice Tribunal ("Superior Tribunal de Justiça", STJ) and the federal supreme court, called the Supreme Federal Tribunal ("Supremo Tribunal Federal", STF).

The STJ grants a Special Appeal ("Recurso Especial") when a judgement of a court of second instance offends a federal statute disposition or when two or more second instance courts make different rulings on the same federal statute. There are parallel courts for labor law, electoral law and military law.

The STF grants Extraordinary Appeals ("Recurso Extraordinário") when judgements of second instance courts violate the constitution. The STF is the last instance for the writ of habeas corpus and for reviews of judgments from the STJ.

The superior courts do not analyze any factual questions in their judgments, but only the application of the law and the constitution. Facts and evidences are judged by the courts of second instance, except in specific cases such as writs of habeas corpus.


Brazil has had seven constitutions:
* Constitution of 1824 – the first Brazilian constitution, enacted by Dom Pedro I. It was monarchic, hereditary and highly centralized, permitting the vote only to property-holders.
* Constitution of 1891 – the republic was proclaimed in 1889, but a new constitution was not promulgated until 1891. This federalist, democratic constitution was heavily influenced by the U.S. model. However, women and illiterates were not permitted to vote.
* Constitution of 1934 – when Getúlio Vargas came to power in 1930, he canceled the 1891 constitution and did not permit a new one until 1934. The Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932 forced Vargas to enact a new democratic constitution that permitted women's suffrage. Getúlio Vargas was elected president by the Constitutional Assembly to a four-year term, beginning in 1933.
* Constitution of 1937 – Getúlio Vargas suppressed a Communist uprising in 1935 and used it as a pretext to establish autocratic rule. He instituted a corporatist constitution nicknamed "the polish," written by Francisco Campos.
* Constitution of 1946 – after a military coup ousted dictatorial Getúlio Vargas, an Assembly wrote a democratic constitution.
* Constitution of 1967 – after the 1964 coup d'État against João Goulart, the military dictatorship passed the "Institutional Acts", a supraconstitutional law. This strongly undemocratic constitution simply incorporated these Acts.
* Constitution of 1988 – the progressive redemocratization culminated in the current constitution. Very democratic, it is more expansive than a normal constitution – many statutory acts in other countries are written into this constitution, like Social Security and taxes.

Political parties and elections

As of October 2007, 9.3% of Brazilian voters were affiliated to a political party. [ [http://www.vermelho.org.br/base.asp?texto=27964 VERMELHO .:: A esquerda bem informada :: ] ]

Political pressure groups and leaders

The left wing of the Catholic Church, the Landless Workers' Movement, and labor unions pressure the government for more intense reforms on taxation and landed property, while the rightist DEM party is critical of the government's social and economic policies.

tates and municipalities

Brazil is divided into two types of subnational units: states and municipalities.


Brazilian "states" are semi-autonomous self-governing entities organized with complete administration branches, relative financial independence and their own set of symbols, similar to those owned by the nation itself. Despite their relative autonomy they all have the same model of administration, as set by the Constitution.The states are:
* Acre
* Alagoas
* Amapá
* Amazonas
* Bahia
* Ceará
* Distrito Federal*
* Espírito Santo
* Goiás
* Maranhão
* Mato Grosso
* Mato Grosso do Sul
* Minas Gerais
* Pará
* Paraíba
* Paraná
* Pernambuco
* Piauí
* Rio de Janeiro
* Rio Grande do Norte
* Rio Grande do Sul
* Rondônia
* Roraima
* Santa Catarina
* São Paulo
* Sergipe
* Tocantins.

States hold elections every four years and exercise a considerable amount of power. The 1988 constitution allows states to keep their own taxes, and mandates regular allocation of a share of the taxes collected locally by the federal government.

The Executive role is held by the "Governador" (Governor) and his appointed "Secretários" (Secretaries); the Legislative role is held by the "Assembléia Legislativa" (Legislative Assembly); and the Judiciary role, by the "Tribunal de Justiça" (Law Court). The governors and the members of the assemblies are elected, but the members of the Judiciary are appointed by the governor from a list provided by the current members of the State Law Court containing only judges (these are chosen by merit in exams open to anyone with a Law degree). The name chosen by the governor must be approved by the Assembly before inauguration. The 1988 Constitution has granted the states the greatest amount of autonomy since the Old Republic.

Each of the 27 governors must achieve more than 50 per cent of the vote, including a second round run-off between the top two candidates if necessary. In contrast to the federal level, state legislatures are unicameral, although the deputies are elected through similar means, involving an open-list system in which the state serves as one constituency. State level elections occur at the same time as those for the presidency and Congress. In 2002, candidates from eight different parties won the gubernatorial contest while 28 parties are represented in the country’s state legislatures. The next set of elections took place in 2006.

The most important Brazilian states (in terms of population and economic power) are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Bahia, Pernambuco and Santa Catarina.


Brazil has no clear distinction between "towns" and "cities" (in effect, the Portuguese word cidade means both). The only possible difference is regarding the municipalities that have a Law Court and those that do not. The first are called "Sedes de Comarca" ("Comarca" being the territory under the rule of that Court). Other than this, only size and importance differs one from another.

The municipality ("município") is a territory comprising one urban area, the "sede" (seat), from which it takes the name, and several other minor urban or rural areas, the "distritos". The seat of a municipality must be the most populous urban area within it; when another urban area grows too much it usually splits from the original municipality to form another one.

A municipality is relatively autonomous: it is allowed to have its own "constitution" which is called "organic law" ("Lei Organica"), to collect taxes and fees, to maintain a municipal police force (albeit with very restricted powers), to pass laws on any matter that do not contradict either the state or the national constitution, and to create symbols for itself (like a flag, an anthem and a coat-of-arms). However, not all municipalities exercise all of this autonomy. For instance, only a few municipalities keep local police forces, some of them do not collect some taxes (to attract investors or residents) and many of them do not have a flag (although they are all required to have a coat-of-arms).

Municipalities are governed by an elected "prefeito" (Mayor) and a unicameral "Câmara de Vereadores" (Councillors' Chamber). In municipalities with more than 200,000 voters, the Mayor must be elected by more than 50% of the valid vote. The executive power is called "Prefeitura".

Brazilian municipalities can vary widely in area and population. The municipality of Altamira, Brazil, in the State of Pará, with its 161,445.9 square kilometres is larger in area than many countries of the world. Several Brazilian municipalities have over 1,000,000 inhabitants, with São Paulo, at more than 9,000,000 being the most populous.

Until 1974 Brazil had one state-level municipality, the State of Guanabara, now merged with Rio de Janeiro, which comprised the city of Rio de Janeiro.

The Federal District is an anomalous unit of the federation, as it is not organized the same manner as a municipality, does not possess the same autonomy as a state (but is ranked among them), and is closely related to the central power.

It is considered a single municipality, divided into the seat (Brasilia) and some urban districts (the so-called "satellite cities"). Satellite cities are "created" (in law) and governed directly by the governor of the federal district and possess no true identity.

International organization participation

African Development Bank, Customs Cooperation Council, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Food and Agriculture Organization, Group of 11, Group of 15, Group of 19, Group of 24, Group of 77, Inter-American Development Bank, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), International Civil Aviation Organization, International Chamber of Commerce, International Criminal Court, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Development Association, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Finance Corporation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Hydrographic Organization, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, Interpol, International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Migration (observer), International Organization for Standardization, International Telecommunication Union, International Trade Union Confederation, Latin American Economic System, Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración, Mercosur, Non-Aligned Movement (observer), Nuclear Suppliers Group, Organization of American States, Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Rio Group, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, United Nations University, Universal Postal Union, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Tourism Organization, World Trade Organization


Throughout its history, Brazil has struggled to build a democratic and egalitarian society, despite its origins as a plantation colony and the strong influence of slavery.


In 1822 the Prince Pedro de Alcântara, son of Portuguese King, D. João VI, proclaimed the independence. He was the first Emperor (Pedro I) until his resignation in 1831 in favor of his elder son. Due to his young age (five years) a regency was established and the country had its first elections, though vote was still restricted to a minority of the population.

Old Republic

In 1889, Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca declared the republic, by a coup d'état. Until 1930, Brazilian republic was formally a democracy, although the power was concentrated in the hands of powerful land owners.

Vargas years

In 1930, a bloodless coup led Getúlio Vargas to power. For about 15 years, he controlled the country's politics, with a brief three-year constitutional interregnum from 1934 to 1937. A longer, heavier regime, the (Estado Novo) had loose ties with European fascism and spanned the years 1938 to 1945.

Populist years

Like most of Latin America, Brazil experienced times of political instability after the Second Civil War. When Vargas was ousted from the presidency in another bloodless coup d'état, in 1945, a new and modern constitution was passed and the country had its first experience with an effective and wide-spread democracy. But the mounting tension between populist politicians (like Vargas himself and, later, Janio Quadros) and the right led to a crisis that ultimately brought up the military coup d'état in 1964, now known to have been supported by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Military dictatorship

In 1964 a military-led coup d'état deposed the democratically-elected president of Brazil, João Goulart. Between 1964 and 1985, Brazil was governed by the military, with a two-party system, with a pro-government National Renewal Alliance Party (ARENA) and an opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB). Thousands of politicians (including former president Juscelino Kubitschek) had their political rights suspended, and military-sanctioned indirect elections were held for most elected positions until political liberalization during the government of João Figueiredo.

New Republic (1985-1990)

In 1985, the military were defeated in an election according to the scheme they had set up -- as a consequence of the loss of political support among the elites. The opposition candidate, Tancredo Neves, was elected President, but did not take office before he died of natural causes. Fearing a political vacuum -- that might stifle the democratic effort -- Neves' supporters urged vice-president, José Sarney to take the oath and govern the country. Tancredo Neves had said that his election and the demise of military régime would create a "New Republic" and Sarney's term of government is often referred to by this name.

Sarney's government was disastrous in almost every field. The ongoing economic recession and the soaring external debt drained the country's assets while ravaging inflation (which later turned into hyperinflation) demonetized the currency and prevented any stability. In an attempt to revolutionize the economy and defeat inflation, Sarney carried on an ambitious "heterodox" economic plan (Cruzado) in 1986, which included price controls, default on the external debts and reduction of salaries. The plan seemed successful for some months, but it soon caused wholesale shortages of consumer goods (especially of easily exportable goods like meat, milk, automobiles, grains, sugar and alcohol) and the appearance of a black market in which such goods were sold for higher prices. Sarney used the popularity ensued by the apparent success of the plan to secure the hugest electoral win in Brazilian history: the party he had just joined, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), won 26 out of 27 states and more than 3,000 municipalities. Just after the elections, Sarney's "corrections" to the economy failed to control inflation and the public perception that he had used an artificial control of inflation to win the elections proved to be his undoing: he never recovered his popularity and was plagued by strong criticism from most sectors of society until the end of his term. Despite popular rejection, Sarney managed to extend his term from four to five years and exerted pressure on the Constitutional Assembly that was drafting the new constitution to abort the adoption of Parliamentarism.

Collor government (1990-1992)

In 1989 Fernando Collor de Mello was elected president for the term from 1990-1994. The elections were marked by unanimous condemnation of José Sarney, with all candidates trying to keep distance from him.

Collor made some very bold statements, like saying that the Brazilian industry (of which the Brazilians used to be very proud) was mostly obsolete and polluting or that defaulting the debt was equal to not paying the rent. He also took quite revolutionary measures, like reducing the number of ministries to only 12 and naming Zélia Cardoso de Mello Minister of Economy (the highest position so far enjoyed by a woman in Brazil) or removing existing barriers to importing of goods.

His inflation control plan was based on an attempt to control prices and a complicated currency conversion process that prevented people from cashing their bank accounts for 18 months.

All of this made him quite unpopular and denied him support in the parliament that he needed since his own party held few seats. At the beginning of his third year in office, he resigned as a result of in a huge corruption scandal. The charges against him would later be dropped, some on mere technicalities, some for actually being irrelevant or false.

Collor desperately tried to resist impeachment by rallying the support of the youth and of the lower classes, but his call for help was answered by massive popular demonstrations, led mostly by students, demanding his resignation.

Itamar government (1992-1994)

In 1992, the vice-president, Itamar Franco, took office as president and managed to evade the most feared consequences of Collor's downfall. He had to face a country with hyper-inflation, high levels of misery and unemployment. Far-left organizations were trying to turn the anti-Collor campaign into a wider revolutionary fight to overthrow the regime. Itamar finally granted full powers to his Minister of Economy, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, so the minister could launch the Plano Real, a new economic plan that seemed to be just the same as the many unsuccessful plans launched by Sarney, Collor and their military predecessor. But the Real was a success, and terminated inflation in a few months.

Cardoso government (1995-2003)

In 1994, Cardoso launched his Plano Real, a successful economic reform that managed to permanently rid the country of the excessive inflation that had plagued it for more than forty years. The plan consisted of replacing the discredited old currency (cruzeiro and cruzeiro real) and pegging its value temporarily to the United States dollar. Inflation – which had become a fact of Brazilian life – was cut dramatically, a change that the Brazilians took years to get used to. Because of the success of Plano Real, Cardoso was chosen by his party to run for president and, with the strong support of Franco, eventually won, beating Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who had emerged as the favorite only one year earlier.

Cardoso's term was marked by other major changes in Brazilian politics and economy. Public services and state-owned companies were privatized (some for values supposedly too cheap according to his adversaries), the strong real made it easy to import goods, forcing Brazilian industry to modernize and compete (which had the side effect of causing many of them to be bought by foreign companies). During his first term, a constitutional amendment was passed to enable a sitting Executive chief to run for re-election, after which he again beat Lula in 1998.

Lula government (2003-present)

In 2002, at his fourth attempt, Lula was elected president. In part his victory was derived from the considerable unpopularity of Cardoso's second term, which failed to decrease the economic inequality, and in part from a softening of his and the party's radical stance, including a vice-presidential candidate from the Liberal Party, acceptance of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) accord agreed to by the previous government and a line of discourse friendly to the financial markets.

Despite some achievements in solving part of the country's biggest problems, his term was plagued by multiple corruption scandals that rocked his cabinet, forcing some members to resign their posts.

In 2006 Lula regained part of his popularity and ran for re-election. After almost winning on the first round, he won the run-off against Geraldo Alckmin from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), by a margin of 20 million votes.and other.

ee also

* Brazil
* Brazilian general election, 2006
* Café com leite
* Coronelismo
* History of Brazil
* Integralism
* Regional Electoral Court (Brazil)
* Supreme Electoral Court (Brazil)


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