Brazil’s Executive-Legislative Relations under the New Coalition Government

Contrary to the consensus among scholars and political analysts, unified government in the multiparty coalitional-based presidential regime might not necessarily lead to an easier life for the newly-elected Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff (of the Workers' Party/Partido dos Trabalhadores), in regard to her relations with the Brazilian Congress.

Mostly as a consequence of the proportional representation electoral rule for the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil, the political party of the president has not been able to enjoy a majority of seats in Congress. However, with the exception of Collor, a minority-elected president in Brazil has never been prevented from building a post-electoral majority governing coalition in Congress. The novelty in the 2010 election in Brazil however is the fact that, in numeric terms, the electoral coalition supporting Dilma obtained the majority of seats in both houses in Congress. Whereas in the Brazilian Senate, Dilma’s coalition will have nearly 64 percent of seats, and in the Chamber of Deputies she will enjoy about 61 percent.

Based on these favorable numbers it has been widely-speculated that Dilma will face fewer difficulties in governing than Lula in Congress. However, in addition to the number of seats, other aspects are also fundamental for understanding executive-legislative relations in a multiparty presidential regime.

The elected president will have to make at least three interconnected managerial choices that would bring about important consequences for the quality, sustainability, and capacity of governing in Congress. These choices include: the number of parties that will take part of her coalition; the degree of ideological heterogeneity of those parties; and the degree of power-sharing among coalition partners.

Read the full paper »