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The Old Republic

The Proclamation of the Republic inaugurated a new period in the Brazilian electoral legislation, now inspired by North American models. The first electoral innovation brought by the Republic was the elimination of the "pecuniary census" or "census suffrage."

In 1890, the provisional government's head, Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca, promulgated Decree No. 200-A, edited by Aristides Lobo and considered the first electoral law of the Republic, which ruled only on qualification of voters.

There was no law to rule over the elections of the Constituent Assembly's members that were to take place in September of that year. On June 23rd, 1890, the law was finally published and called "Alvim's Edict", in reference to the Minister and Secretary for State of Interior Affairs José Cesário de Faria Alvim, who signed it.

Article 62 of the law read: "Special powers will be granted to the citizens elected for the first Congress to express the national will regarding the Constitution published by Decree No. 510, of June 22nd of this year, as well as to elect the first President and Vice-president of the Republic."

Elected on September 15th, 1890, one of the first tasks of the Constituent Assembly was to support the provisional government by promulgating the Constitution of 1891 and electing President Deodoro da Fonseca the next day.

The first Republican Constitution instituted a presidential system in which the President and the Vice-president were to be chosen through direct vote of the nation, with absolute majority of votes; it charged the National Congress with the task of regulating the electoral process for federal seats throughout the country, and the states with the task of regulating state and municipal elections.

During the Old Republic, also called the First Republic, a power system known as the "governors' politics" prevailed. It was planned by Prudente de Morais, President of the Republic elected in 1894: the President supported the candidates indicated by the Governors for the state elections, and these, in return, gave support to the President's candidate for the presidential elections.

This plan depended on the action of the "colonels", who were great landowners whose title derived from their participation in the National Guard, an institution that secured the national order during the Empire. They controlled the regional electorate, campaigned for the official candidates and supervised the non-secret vote and its count. Therefore, the result was nearly always predictable.

The government had great power of intervention in the elections. The central government also controlled the Congress' Powers Verification Committee, which was responsible for the final results and the proclamation of the elects. In fact, the work of the Congress' Powers Verification Committee consisted in exclude some of the elects during the final phase and denying the electoral truthfulness, as it was the final stage of an annihilation process of the opposition called "beheading", which existed during the entire Old Republic period.

Finally, electoral changes used to be made right before the elections, in order to guarantee majority to the government. All of this occasioned countless possibilities of fraud.

Concerned about the seriousness of the electoral process, President Wenceslau Brás sanctioned Law No. 3139 in 1916, which entrusted the electoral enrollment to the Judicial Power. Many believe that the Judiciary's role of main executioner of the electoral laws was the starting point of the creation of the Electoral Justice, which came into existence in 1932.