Welcome to the Jungle of Brazil's Impeachment Processby
Twenty-five parties will have a say in Rousseff's mandate
Smaller parties hold half of seats in impeachment committee
With Brazil’s impeachment vote growing closer by the day, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of dozens of political parties -- their acronyms and leaders -- all of which will have a say in the future of President Dilma Rousseff’s mandate.
For starters, there are 594 seats in Congress shared between 25 parties. Some of them, like Rousseff’s Workers’ Party; its ruling coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party; and the main opposition Brazil Social Democracy Party, are very large, deeply entrenched in Brazil’s society, and affiliated with some of the country’s most prominent politicians. The rest of Congress, or 378 seats, is made up of a motley crew of more than 20 parties with views ranging from Marxism to liberalism.
The largest parties:
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party - PMDB
- Largest political party and a crucial member of the government alliance, the PMDB is an amalgamate of politicians with no defined ideology. It took part in the coalitions that supported former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. It is now considering whether to split from the government alliance and to back impeachment proceedings. The party’s president is the country’s Vice President Michel Temer.
Workers’ Party - PT
- In power since former President Lula first took office in 2003, the PT is one of the largest left-wing movements in Latin America. Some of its leaders, including Lula, are accused of benefiting from a massive kickback corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras. The party president is Rui Falcao.
Brazilian Social Democracy Party - PSDB
- Main opposition party, the PSDB was created by social democrats who split from the PMDB in 1988. It was in power from 1994 to 2002, during the two terms of former President Cardoso. The party president is Senator Aecio Neves, who finished second in the 2014 presidential race.
But here is where it gets complicated. Those three parties combined only hold 175 of the 513 seats in the lower house, and in the Senate they hold 41 of the 81 seats. That means the remaining parties -- called “others” here -- make up for almost two-thirds of the lower house and nearly half of the Senate:
Brazil Congress - party composition
A multi-party committee with 65 members was created on March 17, and will make a recommendation to the lower house whether to impeach Rousseff. The full chamber could vote in mid-April.
When that occurs, 342 votes would be needed to send the process to the Senate, where two-thirds of lawmakers need to support the bill in order to terminate Rousseff’s mandate. The president could still appeal any Senate decision in the Supreme Court.
Impeachment Committee - composition
The government has said it has enough votes to stop the process in Congress, but its coalition has been crumbling as some parties have already defected. To guarantee she stays in power, Rousseff will have to gather support in practically every single party.
So who are the “others”? Those 22 parties are comprised by a mix of ideologies, with many being established by state and municipal politicians. As of March 22, seven of the parties, with 178 deputies and 19 senators, were part of the ruling coalition. Five of them, with 96 deputies and 13 senators, oppose the government.
Here are some of them:
Progressive Party - PP
- The PP is part of the ruling coalition, with 48 members in the lower house. One of its most prominent leaders is former Sao Paulo Mayor Paulo Maluf, sentenced to three years in jail by a French court for money laundering.
Popular Socialist Party - PPS
- PPS has deep roots in Brazil’s history. It’s the country’s former Brazilian Communist Party, renamed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Supports an unorthodox mix of social democracy and Keynesian policies.
Brazilian Labor Party - PTB
- This center-right group is the largest independent party in Brazil, with 19 deputies and three senators, and was founded by a niece of former President Getulio Vargas. Perhaps the most famous president in Brazil’s history, Vargas committed suicide while in office in 1954.
Socialism and Liberty Party - PSOL
- The independent party PSOL was formed by members who were expelled from the Workers’ Party in 2004 after voting against a pension reform proposed by former President Lula. It has six deputies in the lower house, but no senators.
Sustainability Network - REDE
- One of Brazil’s newest parties, its key figure is Marina Silva, the environmentalist and former senator who ran for the presidency in the controversial 2014 election after her running mate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash. The party has five deputies and one senator.