Federative Republic of Brazil - A Consensualist Democracy or not?

Background from Arend Lijphart

Hausarbeit, 2009

22 Seiten, Note: 1,3



I would like in this Hausarbeit to demonstrate, with a background from Arend Lijphart`s arguments, stated in the book „Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries“, if Brazil it is or not a consensualist democracy. Arend Lijphart considers that each system of government can receive one of the next attributes: majoritarian or consensualist. He gives ten opposite criteria, on two dimensions, on which can extend the two types of democracy (majoriatrian and consensualist). I intend to make a logical digest, searching each of this criterion on Brazil`s case. At the end, after considering all ten criteria, I will be able to say if Federative Republic of Brazil it`s a consensualist democracy or not.

Arend Lijphart is a markedly personality of contemporan political theory and his approach can be designed on three axis: democratic theory, institutional analysis and comparative politics. In „Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries“, he unites the three fields of investigation in a comprehensive and convincing approach. Point of Lijphart empirical finding is the existence of differences between various democratic systems, on the way in which the public decision is generalized. In some systems, this is closer to the traditional conception of democracy as a system in which the majority will win over the will of the minority, and the decision making process is rather a striking conflict, marked by confrontation between major and minor (the majoritarist model). In others, the decision is rather the result of compromising efforts to achieve a broader consensus among stakeholders and to protect better the interests of minorities,while minority-majority cleavage is less categorical (consensualist model).

In terms of empirical testing of theory, Lijphart says: "Because the majoritarian and consensualist democracy models are consistent in terms of logical and rational existence, we can expect them to be empirical models.I mean, because the variables are derived from the same principle and, therefore, have a logical connection, we can expect them to find together in reality. "[1]

Therefore, the arrangement of democracies on a conceptual map, in a way that would confirm the existence of two models, is the dependent variable, and the explanation is based on the effects derived from a set of two independent variables:

- sharing power, modeled by the first five institutional variables, named executive-parties dimension
- division of power, modeled through the last five institutional variables and called federal-unitary dimension

There are institutional variables (first listed is the majorotarian characteristic in each case):

1. concentrating executive power in monocolore, majority offices versus a power-sharing executive in broad coalitions of parties
2. executive-legislative relationship in which the executive is dominant versus executive-legislative relationship characterized by balance of power
3. bipartidist system - multipartidist system
4. electoral majoritarist system and disproportionate - electoral system based on proportional representation
5. pluralist interest groups-system, with competition open to all –ordered and „corporate” interest groups-system
6. unitary and centralized government - federal decentralized governance
7. concentration of legislative power in a unicameral legislature - dividing legislative power in two chambers with similar level of power
8. flexible constitutions that can be amended by simple majority - rigid constitutions that can be amended only through extraordinary majorities
9. system in which the legislature has the final word in terms of its legislation - the system in which laws are subject of constitutional control by a Constitutional Court or Supreme Court
10. dependent of executive central bank - independent central banks

The definition of democracy as "government by the people and for people" borned a fundamental question: „who made government and who`s interests have to answer it, when people are in disagreement with the divergent preferences?”[2].

An answer to this dilemma: most of the citizens.This is the essence of majoritarist model. Majoritarist answer is simple and direct, and also very attractive, because the majority of governance lies obviously closer to the democratic ideal of "government by and for people", than a government by a minority which answers only to its narrow interests .

The alternate answer: as many as possible. This is the focus of consensualist model. Not differs from majoritarist model in admiting that majority rule is better than minority government, but only accept majority rule as minimum requirement: instead of being satisfied with a close decisional majority, seeks to maximize the size of this majority. Its rules and institutions are designed for a broader participation in government and a broad agreement on policies that the government should follow.

The governance of majority concentrates the political power in the hands of a simple majority - and often more of a plurality rather than a simple majority - while the consensualist governance tries to divide, disperse and limit power in different ways. Another difference is that in the majority rule is exclusive, competitive and antagonistic, while consensualist model is characterized by inclusiveness, negotiation and compromise, therefore, consensualist democracy can be called "democracy of negotiation."[3]

As I stated in the abstract, I intend in this Hausarbeit, to search Lijphart´s ten differences on Brazil´s political case. I will take each criterion and I will spread it on brasilian political reality. After a deep incursion into the brasilian coordinates related to the analysed criterion, I can position Brazil on one of two sides: majority or consensus. After repeating this strategy on all ten criteria, I will obtain a clear view about Federal Republic of Brazil reported at the ten variables, stated by Arend Lijphart in „Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries “. The result will show obviously on which part is Brazil on the bidimensional modell: majoritian or consensualist democracy?

Executive-parties dimension

The first difference refers to the structure of executive branch. In majoritarian democracies, executive power is concentrated in a majoritarian monocolor executive, while in the consensualist democracies, the legislative power is shared in broad, multiparty coalitions.

The executive branch of the Brazilian government is the cabinet of Brazil. Its structure is: the President, the Vice-President, the Ministers of State and several senior advisors appointed and dismissed by the President, who heads the Cabinet. Is need to be known to what party belongs each of those enumerated, for positioning the Brazilian executive branch on the majoritarian or consensualist plan. Since 1 January 2003, the President of Brazil is Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and belongs to Worker´s Party[4]. The current Vice President is, since 1 January 2003, José Alencar Gomes da Silva and belongs now to Brazilian Republican Party. Federal Republic of Brazil has 23 Ministers of State.[5] After a deep search on the officials sites of each ministery, I obtained the political formula for the current Cabinet of Ministers of Brazil ( which according with art. 84 from Brasil´s Constitution, are appointed by the President of the Republic[6] ):

Minister of Defence : Nelson Jobim – PMDB[7]

Minister of Communications – Hélio Costa – PMDB

Minister of Justice – Tarso Genro - PT[8]

Minister of External Relations – Celso Amorim - PT

Minister of Finance – Guido Mantega – PT

Minister of Transport – Alfredo Nascimento – PR[9]

Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply – Rheinhold Stephanes - PMDB

Minister of Education – Fernando Haddad – PT

Minister of Culture – Gilberto Gil - PV[10]

Minister of Labour – Carlos Lupi – PDT[11]

Minister of Social Security – Luiz Marinho – PT

Minister of Health – José Gomes Temporão – PMDB

Minister of Development, Industry and Trade – Miguel Jorge – independent[12]

Minister of Mines and Energy – Silas Rondeau – PMDB

Minister of Planning, Budget and Management – Paulo Bernardo – PT

Minister of Science and Technology – Sergio Rezende – PSB[13]

Minister of Environment – Carlos Minc – PT

Minister of Sports – Orlando de Jesus Junior – PCdoB[14]

Minister of Tourism – Marta Suplicy – PT

Minster of National Integration – Geddel Vieira Lima – PMDB

Minister of Agrarian Development – Guilherme Cassel – PT

Minister of Cities – Marcio Fortes – PSDB[15]

Minister of Social Development – Patrus Ananias – PT

As expected, the majority of ministers have the same political colour like the President L. I. Silva da Lula; ten ministers, from 23, belong to Worker´s Party ( PT ). While few less than half of the overall number of ministers are political affiliated at PT, the rest (12 ministers) are affiliated at seven other different political parties. As showed in annex 1 (“Average Share of Congressional Seats of Party of the President”), in Brazil, the president´s party controlled less than 30 percent of seats in the legislature (during the period 1985-1998). This leads to a situation in which a divided government becomes the norm.[16] As obviously visible on the schedule above, the Brazilian Executive is very mixed, the power being shared to eight different political parties. As emerging from annex 2 (“Presidential Coalitions in the Brazilian National Congress, 1985 – 2002”)[17], Brazilian Cabinet was ( at least during the period 1986 – 2002) formed by a big number of parties, so the current rich-party Cabinet is not an exception.


[1] Arend Lijphart, Modele de guvernare majoritară şi consensuală în douăzeci şi una de ţări, Budapesta: CEU Press & Chişinău: Sigma IG, 1999p. 226

[2] Arend Lijphart, Modele ale democraţiei. Forme de guvernare şi funcţionare în treizecişisase de ţări, POLIROM, 2006 , p.25

[3] Andre Kaiser, Types of Democracy: From Classical to New Institutionalism, in “Journal of Theoretical Politics”, 6, no. 3, 1996

[4] http://www.presidencia.gov.br/ingles/president/

[5] http://www.brasil.gov.br/governo_federal/estrutura/ministerios/

[6] Under Brazil´s Constitution, adopted on 5 Oct 1988 available at http://www.servat.unibe.ch/law/icl/br00000_.html

[7] PMDB – Partido do Movimento Democratico Brasileiro

[8] PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores

[9] PR - Partido da Republica

[10] PV - Partido Verde

[11] PDT - Partido Democratico Trabalhista

[12] After deep searches, I wasn´t able to find the party which this minister belongs to, so I concluded that he is an independent minster

[13] PSB – Partido Socialista Brasileiro

[14] PCdoB - Partido Comunista do Brasil

[15] PSDB – Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira

[16] Peter Smith , Democracy in Latin America , 2005, Oxford University Press, p. 203

[17] Edward L. Gibson, Federalism and Democracy in Latin America , 2004, The Johns Hopkins University Press, p.111

Ende der Leseprobe aus 22 Seiten


Federative Republic of Brazil - A Consensualist Democracy or not?
Background from Arend Lijphart
Universität Konstanz  (Fachbereich Politik und- Verwaltungswissenschhaft)
Politische Systeme und öffentliche Politik in Lateinamerika im Vergleich
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
657 KB
Arend Lijphart;, Brazil;, consensualist democracy;
Arbeit zitieren
Cornelia Baciu (Autor:in), 2009, Federative Republic of Brazil - A Consensualist Democracy or not?, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/148654


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