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Brazilian Congress and Electoral Court Clash Over Election Rules

The debate in Brazil over electoral rules has been stoked by the constitutional amendment bill putting an end to mandatory piggybacking ("verticalização"), that is, the requirement that coalitions on the state and municipal level mirror the party alliances formed for national contests.

The amendment, which was passed last month by the Brazilian Congress, revoked a 2002 Federal Electoral Court (TSE) resolution. Last week, however, the TSE ruled that this year’s elections must adhere to the old rule, claiming that changes must be made a year before the election. The final decision will be up to the Federal Supreme Court (STF).

The amendment must be promulgated by the presiding bodies of the Chamber and the Senate to become part of the Constitution. Only then can the lawmakers appeal to the STF to obtain a definitive ruling. In the second round of voting in the Chamber, the PT and the PP voted against abolishing piggybacking.

The PMDB, PFL, PTB, PL, PSB, PDT, PPS, PCdoB, PV, PSC, Prona, PMR, and the PTC voted in favor of the bill, while the PSDB, the PSOL, and the Administration’s leaders in the Chamber freed their followers to vote as they wished.

In the TSE, on the other hand, the ministers voted 5-2 to maintain the piggybacking requirement. The court rejected a PSL challenge questioning the validity of the 2002 resolution determining the consistency of party alliances at state and national levels.

The challenge was based on the fact that this resolution was made in the same year as elections for president, governor, deputies, and senators. And this is the chief bone of contention, since the legislators insist that the recently approved constitutional amendment is applicable to this year’s elections.

According to Chamber attorney, deputy Ney Lopes (PFL, Rio Grande do Norte state), promulgation of the constitutional amendment invalidates the TSE’s decision to maintain the piggybacking rule.

Consequently, another suit would have to be brought before the court to elicit another decision on this matter. "Our understanding is that, since the amendment takes effect once it is promulgated, the legal bases of the parties’ national jurisdiction are completely altered, and thus there are no grounds for maintaining the piggybacking rule in 2006," Lopes said.

In the assessment of University of Brasí­lia political scientist, David Fleischer, if the piggybacking rule is not overthrown, many parties will refrain from joining coalitions in this year’s presidential contest.

According to Fleischer, the PFL can be expected to repeat its 2002 strategy of not declaring formal support for any of the candidates and remaining free to form alliances in the states.

With the piggybacking rule in effect, he says, the PSDB will probably not repeat the alliance with the PFL that formed the political base of Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s government.

By the same token, maintaining the rule would deprive the PT of the PSB’s support in the election, according to the political scientist.

Agência Brasil

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