In a article published on February 5th in The Conversation (Melbourne, Australia), Brazilian academic Felipe Krauze examined why Brazil’s institutions are working, but its political party system is a disaster.
As the 2018 general elections loom, the integrity of government institutions and the rule of law – exhaustively examined following the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff in 2016 – is a no longer Brazil’s primary concern. Instead, recent developments have exposed the chronic weakness of another institution in the Brazilian political playing field, one that is ultimately essential to the functioning of a dynamic and competitive system: the political party.
So why are these parties all doing so badly? The classic diagnosis of Brazilian political parties is that they are structurally feeble and unresponsive to both their militant bases and society in general. Organisational unity only seems to come together around election time; for the most part, parties in general have informal or ineffectual governance structures, where personal relations – and personalities – tend to matter more than procedural rigour.
The historical reasons for this remain relevant today. As in much of Latin America, parties in Brazil are often mere vehicles for patronage. They are a device for facilitating negotiations between regional and economic interests and the government, all in the guise of democracy.
Felipe Krause is PhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge