Brazil Lower House Approves End to Re-Election With Wide Margin

Brazil’s lower house of Congress, responding to calls for changes in the political system, approved a constitutional amendment that would end re-election for the president, governors and mayors.

The measure passed Wednesday with 452 votes in favor and 19 against. It will be voted on again by the lower house before going to the Senate, where it would need to be approved twice in order to become law. The executive officials can currently serve two successive four-year terms.

The measure forms part of a package of electoral changes Congress is voting on this week, including campaign finance rules. The measures’ supporters argue that re-election allows incumbents to use the machinery of office to support their campaigns, and distracts them from governing in election years, according to the lower house news agency.

Discontent with politicians manifested itself in 2013 with more than a million protesters taking to the streets, railing against corruption and poor use of public funds. Lawmakers will attempt to cast the measure as a response to protests, according to Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. The change in fact will lead to more political competition, he said.

“You’ll have incentives for all the parties to present new leaders often,” Castro Neves said by phone from Washington.

Limited Power

It isn’t necessary to prohibit re-election of lawmakers, who have limited power unlike governors, mayors and presidents with the public machine at their disposal, according to Arnaldo Faria de Sa, who is serving his seventh term as federal deputy from the Brazilian Labor Party.

“All corruption in Brazil was implemented in an uncontrolled way starting with re-election,” Faria de Sa said by phone from Brasilia. “In the re-election process, the executive uses the public machine, the weight of being an executive, demands bribes and compromises his second term.”

Latin America’s largest nation voted to institute re-election in 1997, enabling then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party party to serve a second term. The PSDB hasn’t held the presidency in more than a decade, and all but one deputy from the party voted in favor of the measure, according to the lower house’s voting record.

The amendment would not apply to governors elected last year, nor mayors elected in 2012. It also wouldn’t affect President Dilma Rousseff, who is serving her second four-year term. Lawmakers today will discuss whether the terms of elected officials could be extended.

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