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Brazil - Political Parties

Brazilian Labor Party PTBcenter-right
Democrats DEMcenter-right
Progressive Party PPcenter-right
Party of the Republic PRcenter-right
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party PMDBcenter
Brazilian Republican Party PRBcenter
Christian Social Party PSCcenter
Brazilian Socialist Party PSBcenter-left
Brazilian Social Democratic Party PSDBcenter-left
Democratic Labor Party PDTcenter-left
Green Party PVcenter-left
Workers' Party PTcenter-left
Partido Popular Socialista PPSleft
Socialism and Freedom Party Psolleft
Communist Party of Brazil PCdoBleft
The Brazilian political party system is characterized by a large number of small and weak political parties. Brazil has a multiparty political system, what some social science analysts call a Coalition Democracy. No party can gain power alone, they have to create alliances in order to stand for the elections and govern. The parties' stated ideologies do not always combine with each other, as many of them are loose coalitions of local and individual leaders.

Under the 1988 Constitution there is freedom to create political parties, provided that they respect the principles of national sovereignty, democracy, pluralism, and the fundamental rights of human beings. Political parties must have a national character, and are prevented from having a paramilitary nature or from receiving funds from foreign entities or governments. Political parties are ensured autonomy in defining their internal structures and access to resources of the public party funds, as well as free access to radio and television, conforming to the guidelines of the law.

The Constitutional Assembly was elected in 1986 and started to work in January 1987. Representatives of 13 political parties, in a very fragmented environment, formed the Assembly. The majority of the politicians that had been united while opposing the military regime had distinctly different perspectives of how a new constitutional order should be organised.

A number of parties that were active as of 1990 had vanished, for one reason or another, by the year 2010. By 2013 Brazil had 30 political parties duly registered in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [TSE]. The first step to creating a political party in Brazil, according to TSE resolution 23.282/2010, is the preparation of the program and the status of the association by its founders, being at least 101 voters in the full exercise of their political rights and voting place in at least one third of the states.

Small parties include the Charismatic Social Party (PCS), Christian Party (PC), National Christian Party (NCP), Education and Citizenship Party (SGP), Party of Social Justice (PSJ), Party of Brazilian Women (PMB), Party of Social Transformation (PTS) , Democratic Party of the Public Servants (PDSP), Environmental Party (WFP), Federalist Party (FP), Party of Labour (PGT), Humanist Party of Brazil (PMH), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), New Party (NP), Republican Party of Social Order (PROS), the Socialist Party (PS), and in early 2013, the Liberal Party Brasileiro (PLB).

Election of federal and state deputies and city council members is by proportional representation. Brazil uses one of the least-used variants of proportional representation, the open-list system (the d'Hondt method). Thus, there is virtually no conflict or competition among parties in the elections. The conflict is concentrated within each party or coalition list, and most deputies use their own resources (which may be considerable, up to US$5 million for a federal deputy) for campaigning. Therefore, they owe no loyalty to their party, and change labels frequently after their election. This produces very weak parties and low cohesion in Congress. The Workers' Party is an exception to this rule.

In 1995 eight political parties, constituting 89.7 percent of the total membership of the Chamber of Deputies, were considered major parties. Each held more than 5 percent of the Chamber. Nineteen political parties were represented in Congress as of 2011. Since representatives to the lower house might switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties can change. Only ten percent of voters have a party affiliation. While some labor organizations and their leadership operate independently of the government and of political parties, others are viewed as closely associated with political parties.

President Cardoso was elected in 1995 with the support of a heterodox alliance of his own center-left Social Democratic Party, the PSDB, and two center-right parties, the Liberal Front Party (PFL) and the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB). Brazil's largest party, the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), joined Cardoso's governing coalition after the election, as did the center-right PPB, the Brazilian Progressive Party, in 1996. Party loyalty is weak, and deputies and senators who belong to the parties comprising the government coalition do not always vote with the government. As a result, President Cardoso has had difficulty, at times, gaining sufficient support for some of his legislative priorities, despite the fact that his coalition parties hold an overwhelming majority of congressional seats. Nevertheless, the Cardoso administration has accomplished many of its legislative and reform objectives.

President Lula was elected in 2002 with the support of an alliance composed of his own leftist Workers' Party (PT), the center right Liberal Party (PL), the leftist National Mobilization Party (PMN), which currently only has two Deputies in the Chamber, the leftist Popular Socialist Party (PPS, formerly the PCB), and the leftist Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). The large PMDB party later joined the PT-led governing coalition, giving the coalition a large, though fractious, majority in both houses of Congress. Party loyalty is weak, and deputies and senators who belong to the parties comprising the government coalition do not always vote with the government.

Senate Chamber
2006 2010 2014 2006 2010 2014
Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) 1211 2 808869
Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB) 19165 927866
Partido Progressista Brasileiro (PP) 010401 404138
Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) 1254 565436
Partido da República (PR) 040301 424234
Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB) 02033 303434
Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB) 08-02 2025
Partido Democrata (DEM) 130203 584321
Partido Democrático Trabalhista (PDT) 050204 252819
Partido Popular Socialista (PPS) --.. 1410
Partido Comunista do Brasil (PCDoB) 01.. 1510
Partido Verde (PV) 00.. 1508
Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (PSOL) 02.. 0305
Social Democratic Party ....2 ......
Brazilian Republican Party ...... ....21
Solidarity (SD) ...... ....15
Social Christian Party ...... ....13
Republican Party of the Social Order ...... ....11
Humanist Party of Solidarity (PHS) ...... ....5
National Labour Party (PTN) ...... .... 4
Progressive Republican Party (PRP) ...... .... 3
National Mobilization Party (PMN) ...... .... 3
National Ecologic Party (PEN) ...... .... 2
Christian Social Democratic Party (PSDC) ...... .... 2
Christian Labour Party (PTC) ...... .... 2
Labour Party of Brazil (PT do B) ...... ....1
Social Liberal Party (PSL) ...... .... 1
Renewed Brazilian Labour Party (PRTB) ...... .... 1
Others 03.. 56..
Total 8181.. 513513..
Following the October 2002 elections, Mr. da Silva’s party held 17.5% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 12.3% of the seats in the Senate. Mr. da Silva was elected as part of a broad coalition consisting of the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) and five smaller parties, including the Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Brasileiro, or “PSB”) and the Brazilian Workers Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro, or “PTB”). In 2003 and 2004, the PT formed new alliances with the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, or “PMDB”) and the Brazilian Progressive Party (Partido Progressista, or “PP”) and with other, small parties.

As a result of these alliances, Mr. da Silva’s coalition grew to 73% of the members of the Chamber of Deputies and to 57% of the members of the Senate. Following the outcome of the general elections held in October 2006, President da Silva’s coalition consisted of 11 parties (PMDB, PT, PP, PSB, the Democratic Labor Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista), the Republic Party (Partido da República), PTB, the Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista do Brasil or “PCdoB”), the Green Party (Partido Verde), the Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristão) and the Brazilian Republican Party (Partido Republicano Brasileiro)), representing 72% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 62% of the seats in the Senate.

Though a minority within da Silva's Workers' Party (PT) voiced their criticism of the direction of the first center-left administration since the end of the dictatorship (1985), the PT was able to count on the consistent support of its coalition of left and center-left parties. Additionally, since many of the policies of the da Silva government differed little from those of the center-right opposition (the PSDB-PFL and sometimes the PMDB), there was virtually no programmatic opposition to the government's developmental model. This may seem odd, since the PT government was the staunch anti-liberalization, pro-state-led growth political party. It perpetually opposed any cuts in fiscal spending and worker benefits. But the PT came to terms with the same issues that the social democratic PSDB had to deal with during the first Cardoso presidency: that is, how to maintain macroeconomic stability without abandoning the idea of social development.

The "Barrier Clause" of the 1995 Law on Political Parties, was in force for the first time in the 2006 elections. The 2006 elections were projected to change Brazil's political landscape because the "Clausula de Barreira," enacted in 1995 as part of the Law on Political Parties, will be in force for the first time. According to this provision, political parties must garner five percent of the nationwide vote for the Chamber of Deputies in order to maintain their parliamentary privileges. Their votes must be spread over at least nine of the 27 states, and parties must receive a minimum of two percent in each state.

Initially it ws thought that any party placed in such a position would almost certainly be unable to survive, but this did not happen. Parties whose vote falls below these thresholds do not lose their registration or legal status, and their members may still serve in elective office. However, such parties lose their free radio and television time and almost their entire share of the political party fund ("Fundo Partidario") distributed by the federal government. Furthermore, members of such parties may not serve on congressional committees or appoint party leaders or hold positions of leadership (President, Vice-President, etc.) in either the Chamber or the Senate. Under certain conditions, the parties may lose these rights in state and local legislative bodies as well.

This new rule ws projected to cause the disappearance of many small political parties which fall below the threshold. Four larger ones will survive: the PT, the PSDB, the PMDB, and the PFL. Possibly two more may be able to get the five percent needed to maintain their viability. But many will not. In 2002, seven parties garnered more than 5 percent, the aforementioned four plus the PSB, the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and the Progressivist Party (PP); seven other parties, including the PC do B (Communists) and the PV (Green Party), fell below the threshold and could, had the rule been in effect then, have lost their privileges.

The Clausula de Barreira is the first step towards political reform, in Kassab's view. It was anticipatged to rid the political scene of "rent-a-parties," as small, ideologically vacuous parties are called, which many consider vehicles for corruption and some blame for this year's vote-buying scandal (mensalao) in the Congress. Three parties whose members were involved in the scandal, the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) the Liberal Party (PL), and the PP were at risk of disappearing after the 2006 elections.

In ADI 1351, filed by several political parties, judged on 7 December 2006, the Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of electoral provisions that granted almost insignificant shares of funding to media time for the minority parties, based on their electoral performance.

The Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) decided in October 2007 that elective offices belong to the political parties, not the office holder, which should end the common practice of party switching for personal or political gain. These decisions follow an earlier decision in March which broadly interpreted existing law as generally forbidding party switching but did not define specifics such as who owns the elective office or when politicians may change parties without penalty.

Party fidelity was part of a political reform package the congress was to have considered, but did not because of a lack of consensus. The impact of the new party fidelity rules would be felt in October 2008 municipal elections, and again in October 2010 presidential elections. With a designated party switching season, the constant temptation to switch parties for personal and political gain has been eliminated, and the result should be a weakening of both the attractiveness and political power of the non-ideological "rent-a-parties" that have been associated with blatant spoils politics and past scandals such as the mensalao, the monthly allowance congressional vote-buying scheme revealed in 2005.

The rules of allocating free airtime between parties are the key to understand how it impacts the party system. Free airtime sets incentives for fragmenting the party system and nationalizing political parties in Brazil. First, the formula of distributing money between parties favors small parties and penalizes bigger parties. Second, the use of one same formula for all elections during four years sets incentives for parties to run at all levels and taxes regional party strongholds.

In June 2013, Brazil faced the largest and most significant mass protests in a generation. These were exacerbated by the population's disenchantment towards its highly fragmented party system, which is composed by a very large number of political parties. Under these circumstances, presidents are constrained by informal coalition governments, bringing very harmful consequences to the country.

An important indicator of the consolidation of the party system is the emergence of image and party ties among voters. As the party system tends to stabilize, it is supposed that voters start fixing the profiles of parties and express party preference or loyalty. It meant that electoral volatility, high in the beginning, would tend to decrease along the time and that, the main parties at least, would create their identity, working as shortcuts for voters in their search for information about the political options in the electoral contests. In Brazil, this has yet to happen.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2016 19:49:50 ZULU