The advancement of collective mandates

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By SERGIO AMADEU DA SILVEIRA*

Collectives can bring new wind to Brazil's frayed parliamentary democracy

The city with the highest Human Development Index (HDI) in the country has a political history dominated by conservatism. In 2018, São Caetano do Sul, in the State of São Paulo, even gave 70% of the votes to Jair Bolsonaro in some of its electoral sessions. This year, the dispute for the Prefecture took place between political forces of the traditional right in the region, won by the PSDB. Unlike other cities in the ABC region of São Paulo, São Caetano was never governed by the PT.

It was exactly in this scenario that was not conducive to the left or to the defense of social rights that the third most voted candidate was that of the PSOL collective Women for Rights. Three combative young women, Bruna Chamas Biondi, Fernanda Gomes and Paula Aviles, received 2101 votes, surpassing old leaders of local politics. The most voted candidate in São Caetano is part of the PSDB, the Mayor's party, and obtained 3008 votes. The right-wing electoral machine and conservative ties were unable to block the joint and articulated action of the feminist collective.

The collective's surprising campaign in São Caetano was not isolated. Signs that are still numerically modest, but qualitatively profound, have consolidated the trend of collective candidacies in these municipal elections. The collectives can bring new winds to the worn-out Brazilian parliamentary democracy, personalist, individualist, based on the power of money and administrative machines.

The registration of the collective candidacy has been done in the name of a person, because the electoral legislation does not provide for voting in a group. In this way, the collectives end up forming and choosing one of their members to formally enroll in the Electoral Court. However, many of these articulations end up inserting names on ballots that demonstrate the characteristic of a shared, group or community mandate.

In Ijuí, 1022 people voted and elected “Bruna and the Democratic Collective”. In São Paulo, 46267 votes were cast for “Silvia from Banca Feminista”, 22.742 people voted for “Elaine from Quilombo Periférico”, 21.172 supported “Juntas Mulheres Sem Teto”, all from PSOL. In Salvador, she was elected “Laina Pretas por Salvador”, also from PSOL. In Curitiba, the third substitute for the PT is the “Pretas Collective Mandate”, having obtained 3582 votes.

A survey carried out by FGV's Center for Politics and Economics in the Public Sector (Cepesp) shows that collective candidacies jumped from 13 in 2016 to 257 in 2020. According to the survey carried out by political scientist Guilherme Russo on the TSE candidacy base , in this election we had 99 collective candidacies in PSOL, 51 in PT, 23 in PC do B, 11 in PDT, 9 in PSB, 8 in Rede, 8 in PV, 6 in DEM, 5 in Podemos, 5 in PSL, 4 in Citizenship, 3 in MDB, 3 in AVANTE, 3 in PP, 2 in SOLIDARIETY, 2 in PL, 2 in PROS, 2 in PCB, 2 in PSD, 2 in PSDB, 2 in PTB, 1 in PATRIOTA, 1 in DC, in PMB, PTC and PMN.

Most of the collective candidacies, more precisely 67,3%, are concentrated in three left parties, PSOL, PT and PC do B, but are distributed across the entire party spectrum. Certainly, right-wing parties have little interest in collectives, as they have a greater number of personalist leaders and a much smaller number of militants linked to programmatic causes and social movements. The collective candidacy is linked, in general, to public and programmatic purposes. In these elections, the articulation of candidacies around feminism, the anti-racist struggle and the struggle in defense of the social rights of excluded segments was noticeable.

What collective candidacies can consolidate is a greater deliberative practice, a strengthening of politics based on debate and knowledge of the causes and proposals that will be voted on in parliaments. The deliberation and conscious participation of a collective can generate a higher quality of political processes, but also conflicts. Collectives constituted more pragmatically with the sole purpose of winning elections may not know how to deal with possible disputes and disagreements. However, social movements, environmental movements, popular organizations and trade unions have a lot of experience in dealing with important disagreements.

Structures based on individual voting, vertical networks that control the party's main resources, the logic of clientelism, can be faced with candidacies that place programs and themes as purposes, above names. We know that programmatic and thematic candidates have been around for a long time. But the fight for a cause or program, in general, experiences a permanent tension in the face of the need for personal prestige, the elevation of the name above the purpose that led to electoral success.

Ensuring political space and expanding it is part of the logic of contesting positions in the State, whether in the executive or legislative branches. The crucial issue is the weight given to change and social improvement or to the dispute for permanence in the space of power. In general, most parliamentarians care more about permanence and re-election than about public issues and purposes. Collectives can reduce the corruption of representation by the liberal logic of the political class. Democracy can be ventilated and strengthened with collectives that can minimize the strength of the professional politician, the operator of power schemes, the distributor of favors. It can increase the presence of causes that mobilize social segments and cross-cutting issues in parliament.

Perhaps the greatest effect of mandates and collective mandates is in the struggle for the “common”. A major problem with conventional politics is that it distanced itself from the possibilities of building community, solidary and collective solutions beyond the market, of producing anti-capitalist spaces and experiences. Bringing politics into common ground is fundamental. Formulating policies how free software communities build sophisticated software, how quilombolas organize their care and protect their own, how traditional communities find harmony in their environment among diverse beings, actants in the words of asymmetric anthropology.

Anyway, the production of politics can involve a duo, a trio, ten people, a hundred or more than a thousand. A collective can be of different sizes, it can seek and experiment with new ways of expanding democracy even within the limits of liberal democracy. They can connect to collective processes of production of the common, to agroecological settlements, to traditional communities, to urban occupations, to multi-territorialized virtual groups, in short, they can bring politics to the idea of ​​an effectively collective confection.

As it is a procedure, the collective mandate can be a way for anti-democratic forces to articulate in democratic elections. Yes, that possibility is likely, but the nature of deliberation within a right-wing collective changes. Imagine Bolsonaro or his children in a collective mandate. They barely had an office. They used advice for personal benefit. Finally, the internal dynamics of a collective mandate can be extremely vertical, which would negate the advantages of a shared mandate.

Some might say that the TSE is already suspicious of collective candidacies. However, if we observe the Federal Constitution, we will notice that collective candidacies are guaranteed there. In Chapter IV, On Political Rights, we have paragraph 3 of Article 14 on the eligibility conditions, which are as follows: Brazilian nationality; the full exercise of political rights; electoral enlistment; the electoral domicile in the constituency; party affiliation; and the minimum age.

None of these constitutional requirements prevent candidacies or collective mandates. It is enough that the members of the collective have the minimum age, are affiliated to the party, reside in the same electoral district. It would only be necessary to amend the electoral and party law by inserting the possibility of collective candidacies and mandates. This would ensure collectives compete with their group identity, without subterfuge, and would allow for the legalization of shared mandates within parliament.

The legalization of collective election procedures would allow its members to register their bylaws, deliberation and decision rules with the Electoral Justice and with the parties. Within legal parameters, each collective could have different internal dynamics, respecting the different perspectives and conceptions of organization. In addition, the law would establish rules for the rotation of the member or the member of the collective with access to the plenary of the parliament, that is, the collective could perform a rotation among its members to exercise the role of parliamentarian-incumbent of the collective. In that case, the parliamentary seat would be recognized as belonging to the collective and not to an elected individual. The name that will occupy the chair would be defined by the collective.

The possibility of this change is great. The approval of a law that guarantees and defines the rules for candidacies and collective mandates, in addition to recognizing this real trend consolidated in the last election and can strengthen democracy. Amy Gutman wrote that "democracy is valuable not only because it expresses the will of the majority, but also because it expresses and supports individual autonomy under conditions of interdependence." I consider it necessary to complement this idea. There is also the collective autonomy that is completely overshadowed by the notorious deviations from individual representation and the power of money that so interests those who despise debate and deliberation. Collective candidacies make it possible to increase the number of people involved in debates, provide focus on the fight for programs and can strengthen parties and keep them more active.

*Sergio Amadeu da Silveira is a professor at the Federal University of ABC. Author, among other books, of Free software – the fight for the freedom of knowledge (Conrad).

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