Independence Day: September 07, 1822
Proclamation of the Republic: November 15, 1889
Head of state: Jair Messias Bolsonaro (from January 2019)
Head of government: Jair Messias Bolsonaro (from January 2019)
Political system: Presidential system
Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 26 of 129 (2020)
Corruption Index (CPI): Rank 106 of 180 (2019)
Johann Moritz Rugendas
Pictures by Jean Baptist Debret
Debret, everyday scene (1816-1831)
Debret everyday scene
The Brazil News page provides up-to-date online information on various topics in German. The major Brazilian newspapers provide free online versions in Portuguese every day.
Numerous articles in Topicos magazine provide important insights into the cultural history of Brazil. The cultural offers on brasilien.de and the Federal Agency for Civic Education are also informative.
Brazil’s history is divided into three major periods : the colonial era (1500 to 1815 or 1822), the empire (1822 to 1889) and the republic (from 1889). The colonial era is characterized by monopoly, monoculture and slave labor. As a supplier of raw materials, Brazil had two major economic cycles during this period: the sugar cycle (around 1530-1650) and the gold cycle (around 1700-1780).
In the phase of the first monarchy (1822-1831) the ruling classes were concerned with territorial unity and with state building. After Pedro I abdicated in favor of his five-year-old son, Brazil was ruled by regents until 1840. During the Second Empire (1840-1889) the main issue was the labor system, that is, slavery, which was not abolished with independence, and the formation of a national identity. Under British pressure, the slave trade from Africa was banned in 1850 and the coffee oligarchy introduced an immigration policy in order to secure the labor force for the main export product, coffee. Slavery as a labor system was not abolished until May 13, 1888.
From 1540 to 1850, nearly 4 million people were brought to Brazil from Africa who left a deep mark on the country. Brazilian culture, religion, cuisine and music also have their roots in Africa. It is therefore impossible to understand the country today without considering the history of African slavery.
Emperor Dom Pedro I (1822-1831)
Emperor Dom Pedro II (1840-1889)
During the republic there were two periods of dictatorship: that of Getúlio Vargas in the “Estado Novo” (1937-1945) and the military dictatorship (1964-1985). The (relatively) democratic periods were short: First Republic (1889-1930), then from 1945 to 1964 and again from 1985 after the country was democratized.
This democratization took place relatively peacefully. Today, all relevant political parties are committed to the process of distributing political power through elections – which is not quite as natural as it seems in view of Brazilian history or that of some neighboring countries.
As a country located in South America according to ezinereligion, Brazil shares many problems with the transition to stable democratic structures with other Latin American societies. Critical voices denounce the ongoing authoritarian and violent everyday political life and the continued important influence of the military on politics. Nevertheless, the reborn democracies in Latin America have so far proven to be viable in the face of adverse economic and social conditions. The young Brazilian democracy also dealt with critical situations, such as the dismissal of an elected president on allegations of corruption, relatively smoothly (Collor affair, 1992). In this respect, the democratization of speech in Brazil can be considered a success.
Such analyzes, based on the all-Latin American context, are often too imprecise to understand the challenges facing the Brazilian political system after the adoption of a new, democratic constitution in 1988.
Form of government and constitution
Brazil is a democratic-federal, presidential Federal Republic. The head of state – the president – is directly elected by the people for a period of four years. Since 1998, one re-election for a second term has been possible. The Parliament (Congresso Nacional) consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives (Câmara dos Deputados) with 513 elected representatives, and the Senate with 81 members, made up of three senators per state and three for the federal district. The deputies are elected for four years and the senators for eight years. Each of the 26 states has its own constitution and laws that run alongside the federal constitution from 1988 apply, through a directly elected governor, its own House of Representatives and its own judicial organization. The states are made up of municipalities. There are currently around 5,500 municipalities, each of which has a directly elected mayor, a municipal council and a municipal constitution.
Separation of powers, parties and electoral system
Reform of political party and electoral legislation remains an important issue in Brazil. The spectrum of parties in Brazil is extraordinarily broad. Almost 22 parties are represented in Congress and make it difficult to adopt consistent reform proposals. The media coverage shows that many politicians only adhere to party discipline or to election promises to a limited extent. Experts largely agree that, in addition to cultural factors, Brazilian political party and electoral legislation are also responsible for this situation. A first step was taken in March 2007 when the Supreme Electoral Court ruled that the parties were the “owners” of the mandates and not the individual MP, i.e. changing parties is prohibited during the legislative period (” Fidelidade Partidária”). Unfortunately, political reform has made little headway under the Lula government. It remains the task of the Rousseff government to change the electoral system and campaign financing, to limit possible electoral coalitions and to reduce the number of parties. The latter will not be easy in particular, as the small parties are against a 5% clause based on the German model.
Since the election success of the candidates depends above all on their own ability to show their profile and raise the necessary financial resources for the election campaign, the elected representatives are reluctant to fit in with party discipline. Another important factor is the financing of the elaborate election campaign. Because the parties with few members have only limited own income and public funding If the state is only very modest, the candidates have to look for private donors. In 2017, a law was passed that stipulates that only individuals can be donors. In addition, this law has limited the limit of monetary contributions up to around 2000 euros per person. Nonetheless, this can result in obligations that endanger the integrity of the later exercise of office.
Although the electoral process in Brazil is extremely modern from a technical and administrative point of view (separate electoral jurisdiction and electronic ballot boxes guarantee independence and efficiency), in practice, voting is often still carried out in the context of clientelistic relationships between voters and candidates. Recent research shows that voting is still a widespread practice. The Brazilians hope that their elected representatives in congress and government will act more responsibly through closer ties between politicians and political parties and voters and more transparent funding of the election campaign. The debate about the necessary legal reforms has been going on for over a decade, but there is still no prospect of implementation anytime soon.