By Bolivar Lamounier and Rachel Meneguello


From the Introduction

In comparative perspective, Brazil is a notorious case of the underdevelopment of political parties. If we start from the presupposition that parties that are strong and well-rooted in society are indispensable to democratic consolidation, our discussion should be centered on this long history of party weakness and discontinuity. Preliminary indications suggest the utility of a revision, on the historical and comparative plane, of the general notion that strong political parties are necessary and inevitable in complex polities. Although it is true that only the Estado Novo of Vargas completely dispensed with party mediation, what one finds is that the Brazilian political system has always had loosely organized political parties, and indeed often prevented or made difficult the strengthening of this institution.

Lamounier and Meneguello's essay, they posit, has a more modest objective, which is to propose preliminary responses to the following questions: 1) How does one explain the fragility of the Brazilian party system in the democratic, multiparty period begun at the end of the Second World War? 2) Is Brazil now living a different experience, characterized by the strengthening of the institution of political parties? If so, how to explain this strengthening under authoritarian rule? 3) Will it be useful to undertake deliberate measures aimed at strengthening parties as protagonists of the democratic transition and of new standards of political action to confront the crisis? What measures would these be?