Electoral mini-reform

Image: Filipe Coelho
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By RAUL PONT*

Without public knowledge, the Federal Chamber approved changes that favor the personal interests of the parliamentarians themselves.

Just like the changes to the electoral rules of 2017 and 2021, the Federal Chamber has just voted on new changes without any public knowledge, without any participation from citizens and society. Not even party members had the chance to learn about, give their opinion and participate in this process. In less than two months, a multi-party Working Group agreed on a so-called mini-reform, which would be consensual, just for small adjustments to electoral laws.

That wasn't what happened. At the drop of a hat, the Federal Chamber approved changes that favor the personal interests of parliamentarians themselves, weaken parties, defraud gender quotas, harming female candidates and distort the necessary programmatic coherence that parties and candidates should present in the democratic debate in society.

In previous reforms, even without responding to the most serious problems of the electoral system, such as the anachronistic and corrupting nominal vote and the absurd lack of proportionality in the representation of citizens in the Federal Chamber, the fact that they prohibited proportional coalitions and established a performance clause minimum to parties began a process of strengthening and coherence for political parties. Proof of this are the 2018 and 2022 elections.

With these measures, the number of party acronyms fell by half, leaving around 15 parties or federations with full representation rights. But let's look at it item by item. The two public sources for parties are the Party Fund and the Electoral Fund, the latter created to reduce the weight of economic power and prohibit electoral financing by Legal Entities (companies, banks, etc.) for candidates and parties.

Private financing, however, continues. The law allows contributions from Individuals and it is common in electoral court records to see shareholders and their families guarantee large personal contributions replacing the donation from the Legal Entity, making the electoral contest quite unequal. As campaigns are individualized (nominal vote) and not by party list, deputies tend to vote for billion-dollar Electoral Funds and when it comes to distribution, the sharing is very unequal, in addition to creating astonishment in public opinion due to its volume.

Party leaderships, not always democratically elected, and federal benches establish pragmatic, electoral criteria and this resource is also distributed in an unequal, individualized way, which does not fulfill the role of democratizing and renewing political representation. The mini-reform does not face this tendency towards bureaucratization and adds elements of greater distortion.

Authorizes public electoral resources to be used for candidates' personal expenses, to purchase and rent vehicles, to pay for personal security services, in addition to encouraging and allowing movement via Pix for donations of amounts, making personal or business identification very difficult of contributions. The possibility of personal contributions from the candidates themselves is also expanded and 10% of the income declared in the previous year is established as a limit for contributions from private supporters. In other words, the existing distortions in the distribution of the Electoral Fund are not corrected, private individual contributions are expanded.

More. One of the advances in the last election, to correct historical distortions, was the guarantee of a 30% quota of the Electoral Fund to be invested in women's candidacies. A correct affirmative action to face the very low Brazilian indicator of female presence in political representation in the country. The current mini-reform maintained the 30% for female candidacies, but opened a dangerous loophole by allowing the resource to be used in male candidacies, as long as the “propaganda” or “double” benefits female candidacies.

Now, what was seen in the behavior of several parties and hundreds of cases ended up in the Electoral Court, was the abuse of “orange” female candidates who would now be “legalized” and “benefited” from male candidates. Another blatant illegality of the mini-reform is to defraud the prohibition of proportional coalitions, one of the few democratic advances in the 2017 Electoral Reform. Parties and Federations that have different programs and proposals cannot have proportional coalitions between them. This is deceiving voters who vote for a candidate from one party and can, with their vote, elect another candidate from another party.

The trick that the mini-reform invented is to authorize joint propaganda by candidates from different parties and/or with antagonistic programs. A current mayor campaigning jointly with councilors from the opposition party, or federal deputies paying for the campaign of state deputies from other Parties or Federations. An encouragement to party infidelity, an affront to political education and the strengthening of democracy that electoral processes must practice.

Another blatant harm to parties in the popular and democratic field committed by the mini-reform was not including a democratic solution for changing the number of candidacies in relation to vacancies in the legislative houses, despite it being one of the topics in all the news that dealt with a new reform. electoral. By restricting, in the 2021 reform, the number of candidacies to the number of vacancies plus one, a contradiction was created with the approval of the possibility for parties to form a Federation. Deliberately, the topic was left off the agenda, when it would have been possible to guarantee all parties the return of the previous criterion of 150% of vacancies as the limit number of candidacies per Party or Federation.

Finally, the record of yet another damage to democracy. The vast majority of Brazilian municipalities have between 9 and 13 councilors in their Municipal Chambers. This means an electoral quotient of around 10% of voters, in other words a very high “barrier clause”. In the current law and in the 2022 elections, legislation was in force that allowed parties that did not reach an electoral quotient to be able to compete for a seat in the remainder, as long as they reached 80% of the electoral quotient.

The mini-reform simply resumed the exclusionary nature of the electoral quotient being the cut-off criterion even if the remainder will be contested by a candidate with 10% or more of the vote. Measure that does not consider minorities, that favors conservative and oligarchic parties and does not encourage greater representation of the community in the City Council.

For these reasons, due to the absence of a democratic debate in society, we defend that the Federations and parties in the democratic and popular field mobilize their forces to not allow this mini-coup disguised as a mini-electoral reform to be approved in the Senate and sanctioned by President Lula. This electoral reform is not what Brazil needs. The argument that there is no favorable relationship of forces, that there is nothing more democratic in the current Congress, is not valid here. Now, if we don't have a proposal, if we don't advertise, if we don't mobilize broad social sectors in this sense, there will never be progressive change.

We are also not obliged to agree to setbacks. Our fight must be to guarantee a true representation of citizenship in accordance with the real population of the States, to have a democratic system that strengthens the parties and guarantees effective governability to the Executives through voting in a closed party list with programmatic commitments and clear economic development projects and social.

*Raul Pont is a professor, former mayor of Porto Alegre and member of the PT National Directory.


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