Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

The 2014 Elections and the Brazilian Party System*

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

The 2014 Elections and the Brazilian Party System*

Article excerpt

Imagine a country with little political party tradition, where parties are relatively recent and organizationally fragile; where the majority of the electorate is more accustomed to valuing individual candidates than the available party labels and do not identify with any of them. Now add to this the fact that for the sixth consecutive time, the same two parties dominated the presidential election and one of them won the last four disputes.

There is something strange about these two things. It would not be so strange if the parties, in this case the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), were also the two largest national parties; however, they are not. Combined, they elected 24.1% of city mayors in 2012, and in 2015, they managed to control 19.4%, 24.1%, 22.2% and 37.0% of the seats in the state legislative assemblies, the federal Chamber of Deputies, the Federal Senate, and of state governorships, respectively.

Beginning with this description, the objective of this study is to use the 2014 general elections to undertake the discussion about the Brazilian political party system. Basically, we seek to inquire why the pattern of presidential elections has continued and to ask about their impact on elections for state governorships, for the Federal Congress, and for State legislatures.

In general, we intend to argue that even with a high probability that the current structure of competition for the presidency continues, it is very unlikely that this will have a significant impact on the other levels of political party competition in the country. The argument is developed in three sections. In the first section, we focus on the presidential level and seek to indicate why the PT and PSDB have persisted while the other parties have abandoned the arena or have witnessed defeat of their candidates. In the second section, we focus on state level politics to discuss the prospects for "presidentialization" of the elections for governor. In the third section, we concentrate on legislative elections and try to examine the present discussion in the literature regarding the impact of majority elections over proportional ones in the context of Brazil. The conclusion summarizes the arguments briefly.

Presidential elections and the third way

It is generally known (COX, 1997; DUVERGER, 1987) that majority disputes reduce the number of competitors effectively, either because the "entry cost" of the dispute is high and parties may prefer other strategies to obtain political advantage, or because the electorate tends to choose from among those who possess a greater chance of winning. Indeed, this does not define who these competitors will be, whether the situation will stabilize or if, on the contrary, during each election the "effective" competitors will vary. And even if the situation is stable, the possibility remains that there might be a change in the "structure of competition"(MAIR, 1996; 2006).

In Brazil, the period between 1985 and 1994 was characterized by intense fluidity in party politics because of the appearance of many parties and an intense migration of legislators between the existing parties. However, this situation was overcome as competition for the presidency acquired a certain format: beginning in 1994 it became possible to foresee how the dispute for the federal government would appear and also the protagonists of this dispute. Table 01 indicates some data about the Brazilian presidential elections indicating the context of stability under the hegemony of the PT and the PSDB.

The 1989 presidential election clearly expressed the period of fluidity as aforementioned: It occurred amidst the crisis of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) and its alliance with the then Party of the Liberal Front (PFL)1, and the dispute ended up polarized by PT and the Party of National Reconstruction (PRN) that, together, held less than 4% of seats in the House of Representatives. …

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