Party federations and democracy in Brazil

Image: Mert Kahveci


Party federations mean a new and modern way of organizing party groups

Liberal and western democracy, to which the Brazilian political system fits, is defined by understanding the exercise of political disputes in society, resolved through a process recognized by the political groups that dispute power, winning the dispute who obtains the majority of votes. votes (SCHUMPETER) in universal scrutiny with or without the obligation to participate in the electoral process. Therefore, one of the fundamental premises for the full functioning of liberal democracy is the recognition by parties, legal circles, society in general, of the rules of the game, expressed in electoral disputes.

It is evident that democracy is not limited to elections or electoral disputes, but in this system, the legitimacy of political power takes place through this process. The full functioning of institutions, freedom of the media (although monopolies and media concentration stand out), free political manifestations, social and individual rights, combine the framework of actions that strengthen democratic functioning.

Brazil modifies its electoral legislation with extraordinary frequency, considering the democratic reconstruction from the Amnesty Law and the return of the political leaders of opposition to the Military Dictatorship, there were at least 35 legal modifications of electoral impact between political reforms and specific laws approved in the National Congress, decrees and decisions within the scope of the TSE and STF and decrees of Presidents of the Republic (SCÁRDUA). Within this scope are rules of conjuncture changes that served for a single election, with the verticalization of coalitions in 2002 and structuring decisions such as Presidentialism versus Parliamentaryism. This survey does not include the new Electoral Code, discussed and approved in the Chamber of Deputies in 2021 and still pending in the Federal Senate.

One of the latest approved changes is Law 14.208 of 2021, which establishes Party Federations in the Brazilian political system. A structuring change of the utmost importance, capable of modifying the political and electoral scenario. There is in the STF, a questioning of the PTB on the legality of the Federations in the face of another approved rule, that of the end of proportional coalitions and the performance clause of the parties. And there is the manifestation of the President of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, questioning the progress of the project. However, a draft of the TSE is circulating in which it regulates the functioning of the Federations and the questioning actions do not seem to be grounded and possibly will not go forward.

Party Federations mean a new and modern way of organizing party groups, similar and successful experiences happen in several mature democracies. Below we will dialogue with some doubts and questions about this political novelty.

The first and most important question is what the PTB uses as the center of its argument to try to prevent the functioning of the Federations, which is disguised as a proportional coalition prohibited in a constitutional amendment. Federation and proportional coalition are two distinct legal entities: the coalition extended the political alliance of party groups to proportional performance, which has its justification from unity through majority support, a given group unites and achieves common goals expressed in Parliament; Federations are units of groups having two or more parties established with their own actions, statute and program for at least four years. The federations form a single institution, preserving the respective political identities of each federated entity and this is the main difference in relation to the other legal modality, the party merger, which in this case becomes another party. Permanent political alliances are optional and their identity and functioning are determined by the federal entities.

The second argument against the existence of Federations is that this model preserves small parties and their representatives in Parliament as well as proportional coalitions represented until 2018. Therefore, a political setback in party organization in order to reduce the number of parties in Brazil. In this case, there is no sustainable legal thesis, but political and moral arguments.

Under the political aspect, the argument that only the small parties benefited from the proportional coalition system and that they will be the only ones to benefit from the Federations is false. In a brief study on proportional elections, with the exception of PT and PSL, which made up the two largest groups of federal deputies, all other parties benefited from coalitions constituting their groups. When analyzing the electoral performance of four medium parties, PSDB with 29 elected deputies; PSB with 30 elected deputies; MDB with 34 elected deputies and PRB (today Republicans) with 30 elected deputies, we can say that all these parties used the proportional coalition tactic in most Brazilian states. The PSDB managed to elect 10 deputies through the proportional coalition; the PSB needed the coalition to elect 11 deputies; the MDB also had another 11 deputies added by the coalition and the PRB/Republicanos 14 deputies were elected in this model. Therefore, one third of the PSDB, MDB and PSB benches and almost half of the Republican benches were constituted by a proportional coalition.

Under the moral aspect, the judgment remains whether many parties should continue to exist. The main argument for reducing the number of parties is that this harms the functioning of democracies. If asked where democracy harms possibly there will be many answers and none sustainable. The main one concerns the functioning of Parliament, a large number of party representations prevents agreements and votes. Nothing more fake!

False for a few reasons: (1) are the small parties the ones that determine the agendas in the National Congress? (2) are the small parties the ones that determine the rhythm of voting in plenary? (3) are small parties preventing the Executive's interest in voting? (4) is it the small parties that hold back legislative functioning, such as commissions?? Not in any case. The general guidelines, the voting rite, the interests of the Executive and the functioning of commissions and other procedures are determined by the major parties. Small parties have the right to political articulations and, above all, the right to speak, curiously the origin of the term Parliament.

Still under the moral aspect, they will say that the small parties spend a lot with the party system and the expenses of the Partidário Fund. While the large parties have resources in the order of two hundred million reais, the medium ones around one hundred million reais, the others will be entitled to thirty million reais or less.

So they will say, once again under the moral aspect, there is not so much different ideology for the number of parties. Yes, possibly, but there are programs, real local and national arrangements and the main mission of the party, the reach of political power that makes the dissemination under the programmatic legitimacy for the functioning of each one of them (DUVERGER).

And still from the perspective of the number of parties, the Federation brings the benefit of downsizing to those who consider it essential for the functioning of democracy.

Party Federations are a reality in the new Brazilian electoral context and will bring real advances to our young democracy. It will not be able to correct historical errors or determine electoral results in favor of this or that political group, but it will be a tool for building political units around programmatic cohesion between historical blocks (GRAMSCI).

Meanwhile, let's fight for the full functioning of our democracy!

*Marvia Scárdua is a social worker, lawyer and a master's student in political and economic law at Mackenzie University.

*Rodrigo Carvalho holds a doctorate in political science from PUC-SP.



BRAZIL. 14.208 Law, In:

DUVERGER, Maurice. political parties. Zahar Editors. Rio de Janeiro: 1970.

GRAMSCI, Antonio. Intellectuals and the organization's culture. Brazilian Civilization. São Paulo: 1991.

SCARDUA, Marvia. Electoral rules and democratic participation: the performance clause and parties in Brazil. TCC (Graduation in Law) – University Center of Faculdades Metropolitanas Unidas (FMU). Sao Paulo, 2019.

SCHUMPETER, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Culture Fund Publisher. Rio de Janeiro: 1961.


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