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Brazilian political parties have their origin in the dispute between two families in São Paulo, the Pires and the Camargos. Using force and violence, these two gangs formed the first rival political groups.
The term "political party" entered the legal texts only in the Second Republic. Until then, they were simply called "groups".
For a long time, independent candidacies were allowed, since parties did not have exclusivity of candidacies. This changed after the promulgation of the Decree Law 7586/1945, which gave them exclusivity in the indication of candidates.
The history of the Brazilian political parties had seven phases. The first phase was the monarchic, which began in 1837. The provincial rebellions during the Regency (1831-1840) caused the formation of two big groups, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, which dominated the Brazilian political life until the end of the Empire.
The rise of the Progressive Party and the foundation, in 1870, of the Republican Party completed the political picture of the Empire.
The second phase, which took place from 1889 to 1930, during the First Republic, had provincial parties. The attempts to organize national parties were frustrated, e.g., the attempt by Francisco Glicério, with the Federal Republican Party, and by Pinheiro Machado, with the Conservative Republican Party.
The third period came with the Second Republic, through national groups with a deep ideological connotation: the National Liberating Alliance and the Brazilian Integralist Action. For the first time, the electoral legislation opened up to the possibility of candidacies presented by parties or by parties' alliances.
With the coup of 1937 and the advent of the Third Republic, Brazil had the only hiatus in the history of its political parties. With the Fourth Republic in 1945, redemocratization made the presentation of candidates exclusive to political parties. In this fourth conformation of the Brazilian parties, there was an explosion of multipartism, with 13 groups.
The military coup of 1964 began the fifth phase and brought the bipartism, which would have come, according to some accounts, from President Castello Branco's naive admiration for the British model; according to others, though, it was a "mexicanization" of the system, which would make the ARENA the Brazilian project of a future PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). The "subparties" (in Portuguese sublegendas) were copied from the Uruguayan model, i.e. a mechanism used to accommodate internal differences within the two parties, ARENA and MDB.
The sixth era came with the reformation of 1979. It sought to imitate the German system of conditioning the action of the parties to the reaching of a minimum constituency.
The seventh and current phase began in 1985, with the 25th Constitutional Amendment and the expansion of multipartism.