Is the DEM central?

Image: Hamilton Grimaldi


The emergence of a more radical and reactionary right, personified in Bolsonaro and his sons, should not mean that everything that is not left is called the center

It has been common to state that the DEM emerges as the main center force in municipal elections. In fact, the DEM has performed well in the capitals. But the question here is whether it would be correct to characterize it as a centrist party.

For this, I analyze the opinion of male and female deputies on how to position the parties, and I show that the DEM is considered the most right-wing party among those analyzed, even though it has taken a course towards the center.

Left and right

The distinction between left and right emerged in the French Revolution, when supporters of the king in the National Assembly sat on the right and supporters of the revolution on the left. From the XNUMXth century onwards, the distinction became associated with the capital/labour divide and the term left came to designate socialist, communist or social democratic parties.

At the same time, it is accepted that the two fields are characterized according to the attitude towards equality: for the left, inequality between individuals is artificial and must be faced by state action; to the right, the most important inequalities between individuals are natural and are best addressed by market action.

Left and right in the Chamber of Deputies

Ranking parties on a left-right scale is always controversial. In this article, the opinion of male and female deputies in the Chamber is considered. The data comes from the project, “Political representation and quality of democracy” conducted by the Center for Legislative Studies at UFMG.

The last five legislatures are considered. In each one, 125 interviews were carried out in samples that took into account the size of the benches. Deputies were asked to place the largest parties on a scale, where 1 meant left and 10 meant right. Responses were categorized into “left” (1-4); “center” (5-6) and “right” (7-10). The result is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Source: Political representation and quality of democracy (CEL-DCP/UFMG)

In general, the positions are maintained over time with small variations. The exception is the PT, positioned increasingly to the left, going from 3,9 in the first legislature to 2,3 in the last. PSB and PDT remained on the borderline between left and center positions. MDB and PSDB also occupied a limit position, but between the center and the right.

Finally, the parties on the right, PP and DEM, moved towards the center – more clearly in the first case (from 7,9 to 6,4) than in the second (from 7,6 to 7,0). . The series does not include the PSL, given its inexpressiveness until the 2018 election. In the current legislature, the party was included in the list of subtitles presented to deputies, who placed it in position 7,5.

State or market?

Depending on how they see the possibility of reducing social inequalities, it is to be expected that leftist parties prefer to strengthen the presence of the State. To verify whether this is true, female deputies from the major parties were asked about: (a) whether they would be in favor of an economy regulated by the State or by the market; (b) what should be the State's control over the management of public services; and (c) what the State's control over natural resources should be. A scale of 1 to 10 was used, where 1 meant maximum presence of the State.

Figure 2 presents the results for the current legislature. The position of the parties in each of the three questions was defined based on the answers given by their elected representatives, extracting the mean, which is the value associated with each caption in the Figure.

As can be seen, PSB and PDT are closer to the MDB, which leaves the PT relatively isolated in defending more state positions. There is practically no distinction between the PSDB and the more clearly “pro-market” block which, in turn, is led by the DEM, the most “neoliberal” party of all, with an average of 7,4 on the three questions.

figure 2


Progressives or Conservatives?

To verify whether left-wing parties would also be more progressive (and vice versa), questions were used about reducing the age of criminal responsibility, same-sex unions, the death penalty, decriminalization of drug use, prohibition of the sale of weapons and abortion. On the scale used, 1 meant a progressive stance and 10 a conservative one. The position of each party, in Figure 3, corresponds to an average of the answers given by its deputies.

figure 3

It seems that, at least in the Chamber, the left is more progressive, even though the PSB and PDT are once again closer to the MDB. Unsurprisingly, the PSL is the most conservative, “changing positions” with the DEM, in relation to the previous figure. Perhaps a surprise is the PSDB which, according to its deputies, is as or a little more conservative than parties traditionally considered as such in Brazil.

Moral of the story

As a new generation has replaced the old PFL bosses, the DEM has indeed moderated some of its positions, but it is more correct to leave it where it has always been, on the right, albeit not so far from the centre. The emergence of a more radical and reactionary right, personified in Bolsonaro and his sons, should not mean that everything that is not left is called the center.

*Carlos Ranulfo Melo He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG.

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