The ungovernable coalition of Dilma Rousseff

Brazil’s political system is an odd one: presidents in Brazil will always need to form coalitions to govern, even when their party has the majority of the National Congress.

In a country with 32 parties – 28 of them with seats in Congress – that is usually a tough job. And the list is likely to grow: at the moment the Superior Electoral Court is analysing requests from 21 new parties.

The political fragmentation can be seen in the number of parties at the National Congress. This is how the Chamber of Deputies is divided in Brazil:

ChamberOfDeputies

The situation isn’t different at the Federal Senate. This is how the it is divided:

PartiesAtSenate The Brazilian system is known as a coalitional presidentialism, a term coined by Sergio Abranches in 1988. In 2015, Abranches’ definition seems as accurate as ever.

Here are the parties under the incumbent president’s coalition. Click in the picture for an interactive version of the graphic bellow:

Coalition

A rebel coalition

Dilma Rousseff’s support base total 70 per cent of the seats in the Senate and 63 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazilian lower chamber.

Still, her majority in Congress has not been preventing her from being defeated, bill after bill that her government has sent to parliament.

Her most recent defeat was this Wednesday (6), when the Speaker of the Lower Chamber, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB – Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), who is part of the largest party under Rousseff’s coalition, asked the house to approve a new law changing the maximum age for retirement of the judges at the Federal Supreme Court.

The new bill impacts the number of judges Rousseff could nominate to the Federal Supreme Court until the end of her mandate.

Before the change, the president could nominate five new judges, but now will only be able to do so if a judge steps down.

Rousseff is dealing with dissonant voices even inside her own Worker’s Party (PT). The president needs the Congress to approve a new fiscal package to stimulate the economy, but PT, a left-wing party, fears that the package, which brings austerity measures, will bring negative impact to the party.

This week, Brazil’s former president, Fernando Henrique Cardo (PSDB), from the opposition party, declared that Brazil needs a political reform.

“The Brazilian political system is bankrupted. You cannot govern with 30, 40 parties, 40 ministries. It is unfeasible. It is necessary to use this political crisis to improve the electoral system.”

An earlier version of this post stated that the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies had 22 different parties. The number has been corrected to the right one: 28 parties and the missing ones were included. 

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