Confusion on Brazil political reforms plebiscite

President Rousseff had promised political reforms would be introduced by 2014, ahead of crucial presidential election. Some government figures say the plebiscite should only take place in 2016

Confusion on Brazil political reforms plebiscite

Government plans for a plebiscite on sweeping political reforms in Brazil, proposed by President Dilma Rousseff in light of recent mass protests across Brazil, have been thrown into doubt after government figures, including Vice President Michel Temer, said there was insufficient time to hold the referendum and have political reforms in place by the upcoming 2014 presidential election.

Earlier on Thursday, Vice President Michel Temer told reporters that, despite general agreement on the “themes of reform” among the ruling 16-party coalition, the government had “given up” on the plans after concluding that there was insufficient time to hold the referendum in time for it to come into effect ahead of next year’s crunch presidential election.

The vice president – a member of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), unlike President Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party (PT) – said the hope was instead to work towards a plebiscite during the 2016 “mid-term” elections.

However, later on Thursday Mr. Temer released a statement clarifying that he had expressed “the opinion of a number of [allied] base party leaders in the Chamber [of Deputies]” and concerns over time limits dictated by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

“I reaffirm that the government maintains the position that the plebiscite would ideally take place on a date that could alter the political-electoral system before the 2014 elections.”

Mr. Temer added that a meeting between party leaders on Thursday had seen “unanimous support” for the public consultation and that a meeting next week at Senate level would attempt to elaborate on the legal basis that could bring about the plebiscite.

Opposites blast ‘stillborn’ plans for plebiscite

However, one of the plebiscite’s main opponents, Senator Aécio Neves, president of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and most likely President Rousseff’s main opponent in the upcoming 2014 presidential election, said the plans for the plebiscite for political reforms were “stillborn” and that the government had only consulted with its allies and ignored the parties – including the PSDB – that represent half the Brazilian population.

Politicians backing the plebiscite are panicked over the preparations for the public consultation as, according to the TSE, any changes to the political and electoral system of the country would have to be a full year before the next election it would affect, to comply with the letter of Brazil’s Constitution.

In addition to this, final proposals for the plebiscite would have to be made 70 days before it could be held and then face congressional approval.

The President of the TSE, Carmen Lúcia, said that, with next year’s presidential election due to be held on October 5, 2014, time is running out as, after consultations and final agreement on questions to be posed to the nation, the plebiscite would have to be held and then any resulting reforms approved by Congress – all before October 5, 2013.

Unprecedented urgency by the government

The procedures surrounding Brazilian legislation are notoriously time-consuming and are frequently subject to appeal and counter-appeal. However, with the stakes so high, the government has moved with exceptional haste with the plebiscite, despite hostility from opposition figures regarding the questions that might be asked and underlining ulterior motives from the government.

Speaking in the Bahia state capital Salvador, in Brazil’s northeast region, President Rousseff said on Thursday that she believed in the “intelligence, wisdom and cleverness of the Brazilian people” to answer questions in a proposed plebiscite on political reforms, and that she “was not one of those who believes the people are incapable understanding because the questions are complicated.”

The president had previously spoken to Congress over plans to consult the public on major reforms to overhaul the country’s political and electoral systems, as well as hinting that she “would like” to see the reforms in place in time for next year’s elections.

Other political allies have voiced concerns that, should the referendum take too long to be put to the people, it would be yet another disappointment for the already-frustrated populace and could potential reignite mass protests.

Some small-scale protests have continued in Brazil on Thursday, including in São Paulo’s central business avenue, Avenida Paulista, but are far smaller in comparison to those seen in June, some of which saw up to 1.25 million people take to the streets, after a number of protesters’ grievances – particularly on investment for public services – were at least addressed by politicians, if not yet fully solved.

Brazil’s Senators have acted quickly to approve a proposal that will divert 75 percent of oil royalties to education and 25 percent to the national health system (SUS). Now it is the turn of the Deputies to vote through the proposal: some believe they will attempt to alter the proposal so that 100% of the royalties are invested in education.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Temmuz 2013, 10:27
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