Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Enlarging the Playing Field: Political Circulation of Brazilian Senators in the First Republic *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Enlarging the Playing Field: Political Circulation of Brazilian Senators in the First Republic *

Article excerpt

This article deals with the relationship between the structure of political opportunities and the career patterns of Brazilian senators elected during the First Republic (1889-1930). The career of the representatives was understood, by the body of work studying legislative recruitment in Brazil, as a privileged resource for understanding political circulation within the public offices and therefore, indirectly, for identifying the relationship among the institutional environment, political opportunities and individual strategies.

Comparative studies on political careers in federal systems indicate that the patterns of political careers in Brazil are much more heterogeneous and open than those found in the USA and Germany (BORCHERT, 2009). According to this author, Brazil offers a large field for the game of political ambitions, increasing the frequency of movements between the arenas (executive and legislative) and levels of government (municipal, state and federal).

From this proposition, we analyze how the number and types of positions available to anyone who aspires to a political position in Brazil change the profile of the parliamentary elite. In a word, we aim to investigate the extent to which the change in the structure of political opportunities (due to the introduction of the election for governors, mayors and senators) has modified the path taken by Brazilian senators.

The most appropriate historical period for such investigation is at the establishment of the republican regime: the new conditions for obtaining an electoral mandate from the first Republic led us to study the political career of Brazilian senators elected between 1890 and 1934.

Therefore, we argue that the institutional arrangement established in the First Republic, to enhance electoral activity at the sub-national level, diversified and strengthened the political careers of the members of the Upper House. More specifically, we intend to empirically measure how the implementation of a federal political structure and an environment favorable to political circulation are reflected in the length of the careers of the senators and their circulation in the several political posts they occupied before reaching the Senate.

With the proclamation of the Republic, candidates for mayors, representatives in the lower chamber, governors, senators, President and Vice- president of the Republic were elected by direct vote1. The parliamentary legislatures had mandates of three years in the House and nine in the Senate (with one third renewed every three years). Add to that the posts of state representatives and senators, which existed in some States, and we have a system with intense electoral activity at the bases (TELAROLLI, 1982, p. 64).

Under the monarchy, senators were appointed by the Emperor from a triple list drawn up by the provinces. There were no regular elections because the post was for life: the Senator composed a privileged mechanism through which the Emperor rewarded or co-opted regional political allies as a channel of access to the top of the political structure. According to Cerqueira Leite (1978),

... the office of senator represented the culmination of a brilliant career [...] It was necessary that the future senator had already conquered important steps in the art of politics, had hands-on learning and the school could only be, then, the holding of some positions such as representative, president of the province, minister, diplomat and state adviser (CERQUEIRA LEITE, 1978, p. 44).

So, the Senate was closer to the Union than to the province and its connection was under the auspices of the Crown.

This characteristic of the senatorial mandate was quite consistent with a centralized political structure like the imperial regime. According to José Murilo de Carvalho(2003), the Brazilian imperial bureaucracy was shaped like an inverted pyramid, in which the number of positions and salaries was highly concentrated at the top of the system, in contrast to the American structure with a strong focus at the local level. …

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