Brazilian National Congress Approves New Political Reforms for 2018 Elections

Brazilian National Congress Approves New Political Reforms for 2018 Elections

By Karine Melo 
Agência Brasil

Brazilian National Congress Approves New Political Reforms for 2018 Elections

Image Attribute: Brazilian National Congress / Source: Wikipedia

After months of deliberations, members of both houses of the Brazilian Congress (Congresso Nacional) approved the political reform near the end of its deadline. The new rules were sanctioned by President Michel Temer, some of which will be in effect for the 2018 elections.

The general elections of 2018 are slated to be held on October 7 and 28 (first and second rounds). In addition to the new president, 27 state governors, two-thirds of the Senate, all members of the lower house as well as the state representatives of the legislative branch will be elected.

Among the novelties is a public fund to finance campaigns in compensation for the end of donations from companies, banned by the country's Supreme Court. Also new is the introduction of a clause on the performance of political parties, the abolition of party coalitions in 2020, and a cap on candidates' spending.

In sanctioning the overhaul, the president vetoed a bill ruling the removal of online content reported as “hate speech, untrue, or offensive, aiming to harm a party or candidate” in 24 hours, with no need for a court decision. The piece of legislation was met with criticism from lawmakers and a number of communication agencies and outlets.

The following rules will apply for the next elections:

Performance

Previously: Each party was given a share of a dedicated fund controlled by the government, and its TV and radio time was based on the number of seats taken in the lower house.

Now: Parties must achieve a minimum performance in order to be given TV and radio time as well as access to the fund. In 2018, parties will have to garner at least 1.5% of valid votes across at least nine states, with at least 1% of the valid votes in each one of them. Alternatively, parties must elect at least nine deputies across one-third of Brazilian states. The percentages will increase gradually up to 2030.

Electoral Fund

Previously: There was none. Parties and candidates were allowed to accept donations from natural persons and there was no public fund directly earmarked for electoral campaigns.

Now: An electoral fund was created with public money to finance electoral campaigns. The fund, estimated to total $547.1 million, will be distributed as follows: 2% among all parties; 35% of the parties with at least one seat in the lower house; 48% of the parties in the lower house, proportionate to the number of seats in this congressional house on August 28, 2017; and 15% among the parties in the Senate, proportionate to the number of seats in this congressional house on August 28, 2017.

Collection

Previously: In an election year, candidates were allowed to start collecting funds in August, but the access to the money was conditioned to the register of a candidacy.

Now: Candidates may collect funds through crowdsourcing as of May 15 in the election year. Parties are also allowed to sell goods and services and promote collection events. Companies are not allowed to finance a candidate's campaign.

Limit for donations

Previously: Natural persons were allowed to donate 10% of their gross income, as declared in the year prior to the election.

Now: No change. The president vetoed an item setting a cap of ten minimum wages.

Limit for spending

Previously: No limit.

Now: A limit is set depending on the post a candidate is running for:

President: $22.1 million in the first round, and half that amount in case of a second round.
Governor: from $884.6 thousand to $6.6 million, depending on the number of voters in a state.
Senator: from $790 thousand to $1.77 million, depending on the number of voters in a state.
Federal Deputy: $790 thousand.
State or District Deputy: $316 thousand.

Debates

Previously: TV channels and radio stations had to invite candidates with more than nine seats occupied in the lower house.

Now: The number was reduced to five.

Paper ballots

Previously: There was none. Votes were registered through an electronic voting machine.

Now: Ballots are to start being printed out in 2018. The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) has announced, however, there will not be enough budget to implement the measure countrywide next year.

Translated by Fabrício Ferreira | Edited by: Carolina Pimentel / José Romildo
2017 (c) Empresa Brasil de Comunicação S/A - EBC
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