Brazil: Comments On Brazil's Upcoming Elections In 1998


Brazil is the only Latin American country that was colonized by the Portuguese. It is also the largest and most populated country in South America. Brazil occupies over half the continent of South America and 40% of Latin America. Brazil has a common border with all South American countries except Ecuador and Chile.

Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and Roman Catholicism is the major religion. Brazil became independent from Portugal in 1822 and is currently a Federative Republic headed by a president and two chambers of legislature.

The federal capital, for strategic and development reasons, is located in the center of the country and is not close to any active industrial or agricultural area. The main economic activity of the country is concentrated in the South Eastern region of the country, near the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

Organized under a constitution enacted in 1988, the nation is divided into 26 states and a federal district. Brazil is also a full member of many international organizations and maintains diplomatic relations with all nations.

After 20 years of military rule, Brazil may be currently regarded as a true representative democracy; having the following attributes: multiple partisan system ranging from right to extreme left, complete freedom of speech, organization, creed and strike, no censorship, Church-Government separation, independent judges and regular elections.

The executive power is vested in the President, who is elected by direct vote for a four year term, with the possibility of re-election. The President, amongst other rights, represents the nation on foreign affairs, is the chief of the armed forces and appoints and dismisses ministers and key officers.

The legislative power is exercised by a National Congress, located in Brasilia. The states are represented by 81 Senators, elected for eight-year terms.

The judiciary power is headed by the Federal Supreme Court. Its 11 members are appointed by the President and approved by Senate to rule and decide on Constitutional matters. All other matters are decided by local and federal courts, appeals being directed to the Superior Court of Justice and the Federal Court of Appeal. All local judges are nominated by public examination, and promoted by superior level peers.

The unit of currency is the "Real" (R$). This currency was introduced on July 1, 1994 through the so-called "Real Plan". Even though the initial rate between the Real and the U.S. dollar was R$1.00 for each US$1.00, being it that such a rate is now R$ 1,043, the severe inflation rate that prevailed in Brazil's economy for the last decades has been eliminated. Therefore, the new currency has proven to stable, thus economic development has increased as of 1994.

Brazil's population, of approximately 150 million, is multiracial including the initial Portuguese immigrants and their slaves, as well as the later Japanese, Italians, Germans and Swiss which immigrated during the second half of the twentieth century. The labor force in Brazil consists of approximately 64.5 million workers.


The 1998 calendar year will definitely be an important year for Brazil in terms of its political situation. In this sense the convergence of presidential, federal and state elections with the economic challenges faced by the Real Plan and the ongoing debates on a Constitutional Reform guarantee and important and exciting 1998.

The main issues of 1998 will be the President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's (FHC) re-election, the Constitutional Reform, continuation of the Privatization Procedures and maintenance of the Real Plan.

Even though it is foolhardy to comment on any of the above issues beforehand, foreign investors and most Brazilians are expecting the following scenario for 1998:

1) By the first semester the Constitutional Reform mainly in the Social Security, Public Administration and Tax areas will have successfully passed.

2) All privatizations scheduled for the first semester will have been concluded without any problem.

3) In October 1998 FHC will be re-elected President and the security of the Real Plan will have been obtained for the next few years at least.

The election schedule will be as follows:

1. May 6- deadline requiring voters to register or transfer their political party;
2. June 10-30 - period in which political parties must hold conventions and choose candidates.
3. July 1 - Radio and television stations are required to implement a series of regulations in their normal programming to ensure equal and fair treatment to all candidates.
4. July 4 - All prohibitions ensuring fair elections become effective (ie. candidates still in office cannot participate in public work events).
5. July 5 - Deadline to register President and Vice-President candidates at the Superior Elections Tribunal (TRE).
6. July 6 - All candidates initiate their campaigns throughout Brazil.
7. August 18 - Free television and radio exposure for candidates commences (will end on October 1, 1998).
8. October 3 - First Round Elections are held.
9. October 21 - Deadline for the release of the official results of the first round for the President, Vice- President, Governors and Vice Governors.
10. November 15 - Second Round Elections

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. A specialist's advice should be sought in order to provide professional advice on a case to case basis which will meet specific circumstances.

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