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Justice Dias Toffoli, president of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), said during an interview held on May 16 that complaints filed on grounds of the Clean Record Act (Supplementary Law N. 135/2010) that relate to this year´s elections will be decided with increased swiftness.

TSE President compares elections in Brazil and in France during seminar

ON September 9, the President of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Justice Dias Toffoli, participated in the seminar "The Expressions of Citizenship in France and Brazil," which takes place on 8-19 September in Brasília.

The seminar was organized by the Embassy of France in Brazil with a view to offering a comprehensive assessment of the political landscape in both countries, taking advantage of the fact France held its municipal elections in the first half of this year and Brazil is preparing for its general elections on 5 October.

Justice Toffoli began his comments by stressing the importance of having a consolidated democracy in Brazil, and added that despite all issues, he believes it to be the best system ever invented. Toffoli offered a historical background of democracy in Brazil, from the Empire period through to the military coup of 1964 and the return to democracy.

The President explained that the Electoral Justice, created in 1932, is today the body responsible for performing, supervising and judging on the elections. He mentioned that this model is criticized in various parts of the world because, in theory, it could create a super power. However, in his opinion, this situation is mitigated in Brazil because there is no electoral judge career: all electoral judges are 'borrowed' from other courts, without a permanent body of magistrates for election matters. In most countries, elections are organized by regulatory agencies or commissions linked to the Ministry of Justice.

On the similarities between the electoral processes of Brazil and France, Toffoli mentioned that both countries enacted laws amending the electoral process when necessity arose. As an example, he mentioned that in 2008 France changed its law to ban re-election for more than one term. Before that, a President could be reelected indefinitely.

On the differences between the two systems, Justice Toffoli cited that the minimum age to run for office in France is 18 years, while in Brazil one must be 35 years old to run for President, for instance. Moreover, France does not require candidates to be French born, while only native Brazilians can run for President in Brazil.

Campaign financing

Specifically on campaign financing, Justice Toffoli mentioned that France is very rigidly regulated, prohibiting campaign funding by corporations and limiting donations by individuals to 4,600 euros, also limiting the amounts granted by public funds.

“In my view [the French system] generates a parity of resources that is more consistent with the idea of democracy and how money participates in the financing of democracy," he said, adding that in Brazil political parties are free to set their own funding limits and that the French system could be a good fit for Brazil, since campaigns here are becoming increasingly expensive.

The President of the TSE also noted that the campaign period in France is of 20 days, which also makes it the cheapest of the two (since in Brazil the campaign period lasts for three months).

Toffoli ended his remarks by stating that dialogue and comparisons between different electoral systems are important exactly because they allow one to discover useful areas for improvement in the Brazilian systems.

The meeting was also attended by former Justice of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) Ayres Britto, French political scientist Vincent Geisser and the counselor for cooperation and cultural action of the French Embassy in Brazil, Jean-Paul Rebaud. The table was chaired by the coordinator of the Law School of the Brasília University Center (UniCeub), Roberto Freitas.