The window of party infidelity

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By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL*

Of every five federal deputies, one changed party over the last month

By the count made so far, which is not yet the final, of every five federal deputies, one changed party over the last month. The bizarre window of party infidelity, which allows for a change of party without loss of mandate, ended on Friday. (Even outside the “windows”, many change parties, under different pretexts. The case of Tabata Amaral is one among many.)

The deadline for membership in time to contest the election in October ended yesterday. Changes rarely have a programmatic component. There is, indeed, an auction of mandates. What weighs is space to be a candidate for the desired position, access to campaign funds, control of the party structure and, sometimes, the desire to side with the most competitive presidential candidates. (The fact that the PDT bench has shrunk by 20% is a clear indication of how the political elite sees Ciro Gomes's electoral chances.)

There are cases like the PV (on the way to federate with the PT), which had 4 deputies and now has 6. But, in fact, three of the previous deputies left the party and five new ones joined. There is virtually no continuity. It's musical chairs.

The Brazilian party system has never been very robust – an adjective often used to describe it is “gelatinous”. But the attack on institutions governed by the 1988 Constitution, starting with the coup against Dilma, made the situation much worse.

Elected positions, in the legislature but also in the executive, were taken over by legions of snipers. People without experience, preparation or disposition for party work. For them, parties are providers of resources to be looted, not instruments for the production of a collective project.

The most serious thing is that the phenomenon is also reproduced on the left – and, as we know, the party has always been a much more important tool for those who fight against dominant interests than for those who defend them.

Many fellow political scientists advocate administrative measures to reduce the number of parties, such as increasingly draconian exclusion clauses. As I have said more than once, I believe that the main problem is not the number of parties, but the lack of programmatic identity of almost all of them. Merely imposing rules of exclusion can widen the overall jam rather than narrow it. This is, by the way, the first result of the federations – or does anyone think that PSOL and Rede or that PT and PV really have so much convergence?

Consistent change requires political education, it does not come overnight. And it goes against world trends – the de-democratization process, the growing impotence of politics and the new networks of public expression strongly contribute to the loss of relevance of parties.

It is a serious problem that requires reflection. But there is a simple measure that would quell at least the most pathological manifestations of our party disorder: extending the minimum membership period to contest elections. For two years, for example.

This would inhibit the back-and-forth that we see today. It would help to unlink membership from candidacy pledges and campaign finance. It would reduce the candidacies of media celebrities, who are reluctant to assume a long-term commitment, and would virtually extinguish those of sub-celebrities of the moment, who ride the wave of one-off visibility (like that policewoman who committed a highly praised homicide and ended up in the National Congress ).

* Luis Felipe Miguel He is a professor at the Institute of Political Science at UnB. Author, among other books, of The collapse of democracy in Brazil (popular expression).

Originally published on the Facebook from the author.

 

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