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Experts of several countries discuss political reform during International Seminar at the Chamber of Deputies
On the second day of the International Seminar on Electoral Systems, Brazilian deputies were able to get to know more about the electoral models that exist in other democracies. At the opening of the event, the president of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Justice Gilmar Mendes, and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, highlighted the opportunity of this exchange of experiences, considering the clear need for a change in the Brazilian electoral system.
"The current crisis can be seen as a time when the old has already died, but the new is yet to be born. It can also be seen as a unique opportunity at a crucial moment. In any case, there is no doubt that it is up to us to act and that we are short of time”, said Justice Gilmar Mendes, citing the need for electoral reform before the 2018 elections. Any change in legislation to be validated in the next election must be submitted one year before the election, that is, until October 2nd 2017.
For him, the challenge is to deliver a reform that not only meets the criteria of constitutionality and systemic coherence, but also responds to the desires of an ever growing population that does not trust in politics. "It is an arduous task that will require of each one of us, particularly of the legislators, the conscience of the historical importance of this moment", stated Justice Mendes.
Deputy Rodrigo Maia stressed that the debate is taking place at the right moment, considering that there is a general interest of the society on the subject. He spoke of the collapse of the current model of the Brazilian system and the importance of knowing the reforms held in developed and consolidated democracies.
Yves Leterme, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), compared the democratic system to a bicycle, which needs to be ridden to move forward. He said that there is a demand for reforms around the world at different levels and that it is necessary to meet those expectations before there is a crisis of confidence.
"Brazil is a vibrant society that has made tremendous progress in recent decades. The world is watching Brazil with high expectations," he said.
He enumerated five aspects that he considers fundamental for a political reform: wide debate with the society, presenting the objectives with transparency; an institution leading the process; involvement from the outset, through organizations representing civil society; not treating reform as an isolated issue - assess the impact of moving from open list to closed list in a way that people trust. To do so, the debate needs to involve all parties.
Leterme concluded by saying that the large numbers of parties hinders the formation of strong alliances.
The first panel revolved around the debate on district, proportional or mixed voting. The presentations on this subject were made by American expert on Electoral Law Tova Wang, member of the Council of State of France Yves Gounin and Brazilian Deputy Marcus Pestana. The moderator of the panel was Daniel Zovatto, Regional Director of IDEA.
The second panel was about closed, open or mixed list systems. The first to speak on the subject was Professor Frederic Bouhon of the University of Liege in Belgium. Then spoke the president of the INE of Mexico, Lorenzo Córdova, and Brazilian Deputy Vicente Cândido. Finally, former Member of Parliament of Portugal Miguel Relvas spoke about the experiences in his country. TSE Justice Henrique Neves participated as moderator.
The third panel dealt with the barrier clause and formation of electoral coalitions. The participants were Federal Deputy Renata Abreu, magistrate of Mexico José Luis Vargas, professor Hendrik van der Kolk of the Netherlands, and Spanish director of the FAES Foundation Javier Zarzalejos. Deputy Lúcio Vieira Lima participated as moderator.