Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world by land, and management of the territory requires different levels of organization. This article will outline the main functions of Brazil's political positions.
In the 1988 Constitution, Brazil was established as a federal republic and divided in three spheres of power – federal, state and municipal. There are 26 states, a federal district where the capital is located, and 5,570 self-governing municipalities.
Each of these levels needs personnel to make things work, and the attributions and duties vary according to the politicians' positions.
Brazil went through a Military Dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. In the first elections after redemocratization, Tancredo Neves was elected president – but he died before assuming his position. His vice-president acted as president until 1989, when the second presidential election after the redemocratization were held.
The president elected in 1989 was removed from power in 1992 after an impeachment trial for corruption. His vice-president replaced him until 1994, when new elections for president were held alongside elections for federal and state representatives, state governors and senators. Since 1994, elections for these seats happen every four years and they are all direct.
In 2014, there will be the next elections for president, for the Senate and for federal representatives.
The president is elected for a mandate of 4 years, being able to be reelected for only one additional mandate of 4 years. Among other things, presidents are responsible for:
- naming and dismissing state ministers
- issuing decrees and provisional acts
- establishing and discontinuing relations with other nations
- declaring war, if authorized by the Congress
- signing treaties and international conventions, subjected to the Congress’s authorization.
Brazilian elections follow the two-round system; the run for president, state governors and mayors may have two shifts. It happens when none of the candidate is able to reach 50% of the votes plus one, and in these cases, there is a second round of voting that usually happens a couple of weeks after the first round, and in which only the two most voted candidates run.
It’s very common that the federal and state level positions are decided in elections which have two rounds. Municipalities, in order to have two rounds in the elections, must have at least 200,000 voters.
The Senate is made up of 81 senators corresponding to three senators per state including the Federal District. The election for representatives to the Senate is every 4th year; however their mandates last for 8 years so there are never more than 2/3 of seats for the Senate up for election at the same year.
Only senators are allowed to:
- to prosecute and judge the president of the republic, the vice-president, the ministers, members of the Supreme Federal Court, the public prosecutor of the Republic and the general attorney of the union
- to approve the Central Bank president and directors
- to approve one third of the Federal Court of Accounts’ members
- to authorize credit operations of the union, the states, the federal District and the municipalities, whether they are short-term - for attending eventual financial shortcomings - or long-term - for funding public works and services, via contracts or the issuing of governmental debts.
Chamber of Representatives
From 2014 elections on, the number of representatives elected from each state will vary proportionally to the population of the state.
The Constitution determines that the minimum number of representatives that a state can have is 8, while the maximum is 70. São Paulo is the only state that has 70 representatives, followed by Minas Gerais, with 55. States like Acre, Alagoas, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Rondônia, Roraima, Sergipe and Tocantins have 8 representatives each. The Federal District also has 8 representatives. The other states are in between 8 and 70. There are 513 representatives in the Chamber of Representatives.
Federal representatives share responsibilities with senators. Some of them are:
- to create laws and constitutional amendments
- to approve law projects and provisional measures of the executive power
- to inspect and approve the execution of the fiscal budget
- to approve international treaties and agreements
- to inspect government acts and plans
- to investigate and punish members of the executive and legislative powers
- to approve alteration and extinction of positions, jobs and public functions
- to suspend governmental acts which extrapolate the power's attributions
- to choose two thirds of the Federal Court of Accounts members.
Only representatives can authorize the establishment of a prosecution against the president, the vice-president, the state ministers and other representatives.
The clean record law, known in Brazil as Lei da Ficha Limpa, was ratified in 2012 to complement an ineligibility law established in the Brazilian 1988 constitution. According to this new regulation, candidates with a criminal record cannot run for elections for a period of 8 years, counting from the end of their sentences, regardless of what crime was committed and who committed it. New crimes were included in this law, such as crimes against the environment, public health, sexual dignity or abuse of authority. The law suspends candidates which were convicted or are still in trial.
Brazil is composed by 27 federative units, being 26 states and a Federal District. The Federal District is a special unit directly controlled by the federal government, where the capital of the country, Brasília, is located. While states are divided in municipalities, the Federal District is divided in administrative regions. It has common characteristics like states and municipalities, and it can charge taxes and fees as if it was a state or a municipality.
The states and the Federal District in Brazil are managed by governors who are elected in the same elections as the president.
Some of the responsibilities of these governors are:
- to name and dismissing state secretaries
- to make decisions regarding works, programs, projects and other acts related to the state government
- to approve or veto law projects approved by the Legislative Assembly
- to command the military police
- to name the general prosecutors of the state and of justice
- to provide requested information to the representatives regarding administration.
State representatives are elected in the same elections as the president and the state governors. They compose the Legislative Assemblies, and are responsible for, among other things:
- to propose, change and revoke state laws
- to inspect the state government accounts
- to create Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry.
The election of state representatives was made according to the proportion of votes to the party or the coalition. New regulations determined that in the 2014 elections, for a state deputy to the elected, he will need at least 67000 votes.
Each municipality is managed by a mayor which is up for election every 4th year. They are elected 2 years after the presidential elections. Next elections for mayor will be in 2016.
Mayors have as responsibilities, among other things:
- to present projects to the Municipal Chamber
- to send the Chamber, until September 30th of each year, and annual financial statements of all the expenditures
- to present law projects to the Municipal Chamber
- to direct, supervise and inspect public work services
- to allow, concede or authorize the execution of public services by third parties when it's not possible or not convenient to the public interest that the own municipality executes them
- to promote the historic preservation of buildings
- to provide the street naming, according to city regulations
- to take loans and offer guarantees
- enter into contracts and make agreements with the federal, state, other municipal governments or private entities
- to set the costs of services provided by the municipality and the ones regarding concession, cession, permission or authorization of goods' and services' used
- to perform any activities for the municipality which are out of the Chamber's jurisdiction.
At the municipal level, there are also the city councilors, known in Portuguese as vereadores. They are the ones who comprise the Municipal Chamber, or the City Councilors Chamber. Each municipality has its own chamber, and the number of city councilors varies from 9 to 55 according to the number of inhabitants in the municipality.
City councilors are elected by the proportionality system, so although there are direct election for the representatives, the combined votes of the party they represent influences their possibility of assuming a position or not.
Some of the city councilor’s responsibilities are:
- to inspect the mayor's accounts
- to inspect and control the acts of the municipal Executive power, including the ones related to indirect administration and public foundations
- to create city laws.
- to declare a state calamity, for 30 days, if two thirds of city councilors agree.