Brazil: Social movements launch broad initiative for political reform
Published on Fri, 2011-08-19 08:08
Last Tuesday a coalition of 30 Brazilian civil society organizations began collecting signatures for their Popular Initiative Proposal for Political Reform. If this project is successful it will facilitate citizen participation and monitoring in government matters, and also combat corruption in the organs of the State.
The Platform of Social Movements to Reform the Political System and the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption (MCCE) presented their initial proposal on Tuesday this week, and they immediately set about collecting signatures during the March of the Margaritas in Brasilia. Some 70,000 women from all over the country came to this public event to support the rural workers movement.
Jose Antonio Moroni, a member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies (INESC - Instituto de Estudios Socioeconómicos – one of the focal points of Social Watch in Brazil) explained that this proposal differs from those presented by legislators in the National Congress.
Moroni explained, "Parliament is only concerned with reforming the electoral system, and even in that limited area it is not doing much. What is more, the only people who are interested in that debate are the legislators themselves. We are working towards changing the political and monitoring system and the exercise of political power."
These social movements are proposing a wide and democratic political reform that would encourage the people to participate more in decision making and not just in the election of representatives.
For this initiative to qualify as a proposed bill in Congress it must have signatures to show it has the support of a million people. It is laid down in the Constitution that one percent of the country’s electorate is needed and at least five states, with support from at least 0.3% of the voters in each of them.
Some of the points presented by the Popular Initiative were incorporated into the legislative debate, such as public financing for electoral campaigns.
Carmen Silva, a representative of Articulación de las Mujeres Brasileñas, added that the aim of the Popular Initiative proposal is to re-establish the Brazilian political system’s credibility with the people and bring citizens themselves into the debate. The final text of the initiative includes proposals by citizens who took part in various national conferences, in the states and in an on-line conference. Silva said, "We want to collect a million signatures to get the text into Congress with political force."
One of the aims of the Popular Initiative Proposal for Political Reform is to promote the creation of instruments to fight corruption in Congress in the most effective way. The main one is to establish public financing for political campaigns. Silva explained that at the moment they are financed by private firms that subsequently exert influence over the legislators.
"This will not get rid of corruption but it is an important step towards reducing it in Congress.”
Other proposals are to include representatives from civil society on the ethics commissions in the legislative chambers, empower the electoral justice machinery to access fiscal and financial information about the candidates, and oblige political parties to make their accounts public at all times and not just when there is an election campaign.
The organizations that belong to the campaign are the Brazilian Association of NGOs (ABONG), the Coordination of Brazilian Women (AMB), the Coordination of Black Brazilian Women (AMNB), the Brazilian Association of Caricaturists (ACB), the National Campaign for the Right to Education, the Latin America Education Council, the National Lay Council, the Committee of the Government School of Sao Paulo in Defence of the Republic and Democracy, the Federal Council of Engineering, Architecture and Agronomy, Evangelists for Justice, the West Amazon Forum, the East Amazon Forum, the Brazil Budget Forum, the Forum of National Human Rights Entities, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Political Reflection Forum, the Mineiro Forum for Broad Democratic and Participative Reform, the National Popular Participation Forum, the Paulista Forum for Popular Participation, the National Forum for Urban Reform, the Brazil Collective of Social Communication, the Brazilian League of Lesbians, the Progressive Evangelical Movement, the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption, the National Human Rights Movement, the Movement for Political Reform with Popular Participation, the Citizenship Observatory, the Process of Dialogue and Coordination of Ecumenical Agencies and Brazilian Organizations, the Brazil Network about Multilateral Financial Institutions, the Brazilian Network for the Integration of the Peoples, and the National Feminist Network for Health and Sexual and Reproductive Rights.