Brazil’s Congress Moves Forward on Reelection Ban

Brazilian congressmen almost unanimously voted to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting reelections in the executive. (Correo del Orinoco)
Brazilian congressmen almost unanimously voted to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting reelections in the executive. (Correo del Orinoco)

EspañolWhile Honduras may soon join a growing list of Latin-American nations that allow for the indefinite reelection of state officials, the South American country of Brazil appears to be headed in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, May 27, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that bans reelections for president, governors, and mayors.

The bill passed with 452 legislators voting in its favor, 19 against, and one abstention. Ironically, the bill’s sponsor, Rodrigo Maia, a congressman from Rio de Janeiro, received the most opposition to the proposal from his own conservative-leaning Democrats party, as five legislators moved to block the passage.

The constitutional amendment still has a long way to go: it must first undergo a second round of voting in Brazil’s lower house before moving on to the Senate.

If passed, the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) will not affect mayors elected in 2012, nor governors who won their seats in 2014 for the first time. They would qualify for a “one time, last time” consecutive reelection. However, President Dilma Rousseff, reelected in October 2014, would no longer be able to run for a third term in 2018.

On Tuesday, the Congress also voted to block a proposal within the bill that would have changed the rules on the private financing of political campaigns.

“Companies are important to run their businesses, build, create jobs, produce goods and services — not finance elections.”

Brazilian legislators will also decide whether to extend term lengths from four to five years, and eliminate compulsory voting for all citizens between 18 and 70 years old.

Youth Participation

Eduardo Cunha, president of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies and a major opponent of the Rousseff administration, says the constitutional reform will bring positive changes for the country. While he admits his opinion on the matter has changed over the years, Cunha says he now believes “the end of reelection is what’s best for Brazil.”

“Putting an end to reelections is the first step to giving younger generations, the new leadership, the youth, an opportunity to participate in politics.”

The legislator added that he believes the change will be especially beneficial for small Brazilian cities. Leonardo Picciani, leader of the second largest party represented in Brazil’s lower house, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), said reelections “have not turned out to be a conducive model for the country.”

While the head of Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Dias Toffoli, refrained from commenting directly on the merits of reelection itself, he said the change could help limit disputes that arise from programs created during election years, and thus reduce the court’s workload.

As for whether or not this could signal a broader shift in Latin America, Argentinean professor and researcher Mario Serrafero told the PanAm Post he does not believe other countries will follow in Brazil’s footsteps. “This appears to be a product of Brazil’s own internal affairs.”

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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