Legislative Politics in Latin America

By Scott Morgenstern; Benito Nacif | Go to book overview
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3
Presidential Cabinets, Electoral Cycles, and
Coalition Discipline in Brazil
OCTAVIO AMORIM NETO*

Introduction

Recent works on Latin American presidentialism (Amorim Neto 1998; Deheza 1998; Thibaut 1998) indicate that the frequency of coalition governments in this area is higher than expected by comparative theorists of this system of government (Jones 1995; Lijphart 1992; Linz 1994). While such a finding reveals that Third World presidential democracies are able to devise extraconstitutional means by which the crisis proclivity of minority presidents can be overcome, it remains to be seen whether multiparty presidential cabinets can work as parliamentary-style coalitions that in general display a high degree of unity on the floor of parliament and operate in conjunction with the executive to promote legislation.

Brazil is a good starting point to tackle this question. There is an ongoing debate in the comparative presidentialism literature about Brazil's prevalent pattern of government formation. On the one hand, Abranches (1988), Deheza (1997, pp. 192–230), and Meneguello (1998) contend that all Brazilian presidents appoint coalition governments. On the other, Amorim Neto (1994, 1995) and Thibaut (1996, pp. 282–321) caution against a loose application of the concept of coalition government to presidential systems and argue that other types of cabinets also have been formed in this country. While Abranches, Deheza, and Meneguello simply

____________________
*
This work was supported by FAPERJ under grant number E-26/150.194/98-BOLSA. I thank Gary W. Cox, Arend Lijphart, Fernando Limongi, Scott Morgenstern, and Benito Nacif for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. The usual disclaimer applies. I also thank Argelina C. Figueiredo, Fernando Limongi, and Jairo Nicolau for kindly sharing their data sets on the 1989–1998 legislative roll calls in Brazil.

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