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Big-time parties lose ground, Brazil lower house fragmented

Jair Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party grew 550%

Published in 09/10/2018 - 20:55

By Paulo Victor Chagas Brasília

The Brazilian lower house—the Chamber of Deputies—will start off next year with the highest number of political parties since the country’s redemocratization. The next president of Brazil will have to negotiate with 30 parties altogether. Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), and center-leftist Fernando Haddad, of the Workers Party (ex-President Lula’s PT), are facing each other in a run-off vote, to be held on October 28.

In Brazil’s last presidential elections, in 2014, federal deputies were elected from 28 different political groups. In 2010, parties added up to 22. In addition to coalitions with little representation—like Bolsonaro’s PSL—the elections this year showed a higher renewal rate than the previous ones, and a lower number of Congress members from bulky coalitions. 

With 12 fewer representatives, the PT will take 56 seats as of February, 2019. In 2014, the party had 68. After the so-called party window (the period in which Brazilian politicians are allowed to change parties), the PT had already lost Congress members, and has 61 in the current Parliament.

The PSL, in turn, experienced a staggering a 550 percent expansion from its current representation. Boosted by Bolsonaro’s candidacy, 52 candidates from his party were elected. In the previous party window, which ended in April this year, the party had grown from two to eight lawmakers—one of them Bolsonaro himself. His son Eduardo Bolsonaro was the most voted-for deputy in Brazil, with 1.84 million votes.


The Democrats (DEM)—the party of current lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia—underwent an increase from the previous elections, but will start the year with fewer representatives than it has today. With 21 elected deputies in 2014, the party gained four in recent years after former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted, and welcomed new members early this year, reaching a total 43 deputies. In the elections this Sunday (8), however, only 29 Congress members from DEM were elected.

This is also the average for groups previously seen as large, like the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and the Democratic Movement party (MDB), of current President Michel Temer. These parties were nearly halved in the last elections. While the PSDB had 54 deputies and will retain 29 in the lower house next year, the MDB saw its representation shrink nearly 48 percent—from 65 to 34 seats.

The left

Known for standing in firm and radical opposition, the seats held by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) doubled the number of representatives elected. The PSOL has six lawmakers today, and will be represented by 10 as of next year.

Other left-leaning parties will occupy more posts—like the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), of Ciro Gomes, the presidential hopeful that came off third in the race. Its deputies added up to 20, but elected 28 names in this year’s elections. As for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), and the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), the number of seats sank to 32 and nine, respectively.


Parties with other presidential hopefuls also fared well in the race this year. The newly created Novo (“new”), of João Amoêdo, a candidate who cast himself as an economic liberal, will be granted eight seats. As for Podemos (“we can”), of Senator Álvaro Dias, who also ran for president, the number of deputies in the lower house rose to 11, up seven seats it obtained in 2014.

The change in party names—a strategy meant to symbolize fresh politics—also proved key to smaller groups. Avante (“forward”), previously named Brazil Labor Party (PtdoB), went from two to seven representatives. The former National Ecological Party (PEN), in turn, which changed its name to Patriots, will have five deputies, three more than it was allowed to have four years ago.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira Edition: Talita Cavalcante / Mariana Branco

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