Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Brazilian Political Institutions: An Inconclusive Debate *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Brazilian Political Institutions: An Inconclusive Debate *

Article excerpt

Back in 2000, I published an article in the Revista Dados, entitled "How is Brazil governed? The Debate about political institutions and management of the government", in which I presented a report on the debate among interpretative trends of the Brazilian political system. Instigated by the reactions to that report, and by the interest that it still raises, I give continuity in this article to that work, in the light of a handful of recent contributions.

My main argument is that, although recent analyses about the Brazilian political system have introduced new evidence as well as have taken the discussion to new analytical dimensions, the interpretations and paradigms leading the debate remain the same. No matter how well established the paradigm asserting that the Brazilian political system ensures governability is, we assure that the debate about Brazil is moving far beyond. By the moment, we can say that it does so without breaking with old paradigms, but instead raising some new issues. This is the case of rethinking the notion of governability, perhaps very narrowly defined as the ability of the Executive to obtain, and hold, disciplined majorities in Parliament. Nowadays, the notion of governability also makes reference to good governance, and to the quality of public policy.

Dialectic synthesis or parallelism of interpretations?

Timothy Power (2010) argues that the debate about the operation of the Brazilian political system would have produced a 'dialectic synthesis', with the publication of Pereira and Melo (2014). In this section, I argue, in contrast, that it would be more accurate to say that there is new evidence indicating antagonistic interpretations about the conditions that explain the governability of the Brazilian political system.

Power (2010) wrote an article entirely dedicated to interpretations of the Brazilian political system over the time. The author distinguishes a first interpretation, pessimistic, and characterized by a diagnosis of ungovernability, that would have prevailed until middle 90s (AMES, 2001; LAMOUNIER, 1996; MAINWARING, 1999), from a second one, optimistic, in the sense of claiming that the institutions of the Brazilian political system are governable, and that would have become dominant at the end of that decade (AMORIM NETO, COX and MCCUBBINS, 2003; FIGUEIREDO and LIMONGI, 1999; PEREIRA and MUELLER, 2004; SANTOS, 2003), and from a third one, which, Power (2010) mentions, can be called coalitional presidentialism that "is somewhat of a 'grand unification' of earlier models, in the sense that it can accommodate insights from both the 'pessimists' and the 'optimists' at the same time" (POWER, 2010, p. 19). In that way, the author says: "the extensive literature about Brazilian political institutions can now be seen as assuming a rather clear dialectical form" (POWER, 2010, p. 19).

As we can see, according to Power (2010), those paradigms have been successive over the time. In addition, there was an integration of them as the third paradigm would have incorporated elements of the previous two. It would be a dialectical movement in which the third paradigm would obviously be the synthesis.

Indeed, the three interpretations systematized by Power(2010) are currently discussing with one another1. Far from being considered in a diachronicdialectic sequence, they coexist today and do not involve a synthesis process. Although they emerged at different times, new interpretations did not replace previous ones. They remain, to a greater extent, more as live positions of a wideranging discussion, than as integrated components of a new interpretation. In reality, it is legitimate to wonder whether such an interpretation, new and synthetic, exists.

Certainly, the evidences underlying different positions change, but positions do not. Power (2010) mentions that "coalitional presidentialisms often used as a shorthand for the totality of ways in which macropolitics has adapted to the Constitution of 1988" (POWER, 2010, p. …

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