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Daniel J. Epstein, "Clientelism Versus Ideology: Problems of Party Development in Brazil," Party Politics, 15 (May 2009), 335-355.

First paragraph:
Parties have a key role to play in any democracy: that of providing informational short cuts. The need for parties to play this role is especially critical in new democracies where politics is in a state of flux that may exhaust voters' capacity to process information about individual politicians. Brazil presents an extreme case for the indispensability of parties because its Open List Proportional Representation (OLPR) system can present voters with lists of 60-600 candidates from which they must choose one. The party system was one of the most problematic realms of consolidation in the years after the Brazilian military regime left power. Fernando Collor, the first popularly elected president of the current democratic period, created the briefly successful Partido Reconstrução Nacional (PRN) as a vehicle for his election campaign in 1989 (Hagopian, 1996: xvi-xx). However, he was impeached in 1992 and the party collapsed almost immediately. In the late 1980s, the largest party to emerge from the years of military regime, the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB), split in two, with many defectors following academic (and later president) Fernando Henrique Cardoso to form a splinter party, the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB). Cardoso and the PSDB went on to win the presidency in 1994, several governorships, including the two largest states, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and nearly a fifth of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Nevertheless, the original PMDB was undaunted, and met with success in both gubernatorial and legislative races, maintaining one of the largest congressional delegations. Furthermore, in the next two presidential elections the PMDB supported the PSDB's candidate, begging the question of how truly separate the parties were.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Composition of Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, 1982-2002
Figure 2. Composition of Brazilian Senate (seats won each election), 1986-2002
Figure 3. Party shares Rondônia delegation to Chamber of Deputies, 1982-2002
Figure 4. Party shares Rio de Janeiro delegation to Chamber of Deputies, 1982-2002
Figure 5. Party shares Santa Catarina delegation to Chamber of Deputies, 1982-2002
Figure 6. Party shares Bahia delegation to the Chamber of Deputies, 1982-2002
Table 1. Average stability and concentration of parties in Chamber of Deputies delegations, 1994-2002
Figure 7. Relative concentration and stability
Figure 8. Weighted average coefficients of variance for parties in 16 Brazilian states
Figure 9. Ratios of party-changing candidates to party-loyal candidiates, 1998-2002

Next to Last Paragraph:
This piece has argued that while Brazil's national party system looks to be 'settling down' nicely, divergent trends in state-level party systems, where most voters actually interact with parties, are potentially quite damaging to parties' capacity to play their key informational role in democracy. After considering some potential explanations, the hypothesis was advanced that state-level party organizations' choice of clientelistic versus programmatic linkages could be the best explanation. Proxy data on clientelism were presented, as well as some analysis thereof, which gives some confirmation to the hypothesis, although at rather low confidence levels. These are probably primarily the result of a maximum N of 27 (the number of Brazil's federal units), and in several cases even fewer because of data constraints. Improvement could be made by collecting full datasets for all states, and also by using different kinds of data that might serve as better proxies for clientelism, such as surveys of corruption and its association with specific parties in specific states, or state-level measures of 'pork' legislation or public employment. Another improvement would be better specified measures of the competition type, as some of the states could not be classified at all, perhaps including electoral results from state-legislative elections as well, and finding a formula by which to amalgamate these with the congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial electoral results..

Last updated April 2009