On June 1st, the Senate held a special session to honor the Electoral Justice System for the 70th anniversary of its re-establishment. The ceremony was attended by Justice Dias Toffoli (Chief Justice of the Superior Electoral Court - TSE), Gilmar Mendes (Deputy Chief Justice of the TSE), Justice João Otávio de Noronha (Electoral Comptroller General), Eugênio Aragão (Deputy Electoral Prosecutor-General), Renan Calheiros (President of the Senate), Vital do Rego (Member of the Brazilian Federal Audit Court), Benjamin Herman (Justice of the Superior Court of Justice), Marcus Vinicius Furtado Coelho (Chairman of the Brazilian Bar Association) and Senator Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), who filed the petition for the session to be held.
The President of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, opened the ceremony with the statement that "Brazil's young democracy, no doubt, owes much to the Electoral Justice System”. He further stated that the judicial and administrative responsibilities of the Electoral Justice System, which adjudicates on cases and organizes the elections, are fundamental parts in the process of enforcing the core Constitutional provision that all power emanates from the people. “The existence of the Electoral Justice System is indispensable for that to become reality," said the Senator, adding that democracy is not achieved merely through the 'cold letter of the law': there is no democracy without elections.
Chief Justice Dias Toffoli then took the floor at the Senate plenary to offer an overview of the history of the Brazilian Electoral Justice System, contextualizing the re-establishment period, which occurred in 1945, after its activities were suspended by the 'Estado Novo' regime in 1937.
“In 1945 the Brazilian State opted once again to assign the organization of elections to the Judiciary Power. The Brazilian electoral system is a reflection of the historical and political building of the country," said the Chief Justice, explaining that since 1822 (when Brazil's first electoral legislation was enacted) and up until today, the country has enjoyed 192 years of electoral life. According to him, not many countries have as long a history of elections as the Brazilian nation does.
Toffoli emphasized the evolution of people's participation in elections since the end of the census vote. “We resumed with 13% of the population voting in 1945, and today we have 80% of the population registered as voters," he emphasized.
He also recalled that Brazil is ahead of many nations in the political-democratic arena, being the second country in Latin America to recognize female vote (the first was Ecuador), even before countries such as Belgium and France did the same.
Still providing a historical overview, the Chief Justice highlighted that the creation of the Electoral Justice System and the enactment of the Electoral Code (the latter in 24 February 1932, "the first birth date of Brazil's Electoral Justice System", he said), were the result of the need to break with ancient electoral practices, such as the so-called "Colonelism."
According to Justice Toffoli, very few nations in the world have deferred to the Judiciary Power the attribution of organizing and administering the electoral process. “Most nations delegate this role to a kind of regulatory agency, or even to the Executive Power itself”.
Finally, the Chief Justice of the Court declared that "the Electoral Justice System is ready for its new challenges”. He cited the advanced technologies adopted in the elections, such as the electronic voting machine and the biometric registration of voters, which identifies each citizen by their fingerprint. He also added that Brazilian elections are a world reference and that the Electoral Justice System represents a gatekeeper of democracy in the country, "ensuring free, safe, equitable elections that preserve and embody genuine popular will throughout the national territory”.
Senator Romero Jucá spoke about the importance of the TSE and of the Regional Electoral Courts (TRE) in strengthening democracy by organizing elections and "making their presence felt in all municipalities, no matter how distant”. According to him, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Electoral Justice System is recognizing the value of universal suffrage as a basic principle for the consolidation of democracy. “It means, above all, to realize the will of the people, strengthening the Democratic Rule of Law," he said.
“The Senate pays this well-deserved homage to what was one of the biggest landmarks in our electoral process: the re-establishment of the Electoral Justice System in 1945," said Senator Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB-AM), who highlighted the achievement of women's suffrage in the country in 1932. According to the Congresswoman, Brazil continues in last place in the American continent in terms of women's political participation. “We have a great challenge: to perfect the democracy of our country a little more every day, and that means, among other things, ensuring greater space to women in Brazilian parliaments," she said.
Also spoke in honor of Electoral Justice System senators Telmário Mota (PDT-RR), Hélio José (PSD-DF), Donizeti Nogueira (PT-TO) and Edson Lobão (PMDB-MA).