the strait-jacket of a presidential system

Brazil’s economy is in a mess, and so is its political system. According the Financial Times, “wholesale political renewal” is needed, beginning with the removal of the president herself, Ms Dilma Rousseff.

Sadly, there is little chance of that until scheduled elections in 2018. Unpopularity is insufficient reason to remove Ms Rousseff: if it was, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former president who laid the grounds of Brazil’s now-squandered economic stability, would not have lasted his second term. Brazil’s presidential system also means Ms Rousseff cannot dissolve Congress and call fresh elections.

Known for her hard-headed stubbornness, Ms Rousseff has anyway insisted she will not resign. Nor is there any evidence that she personally profited from the Petrobras scam. True, she might yet be impeached on other grounds, such as false government accounting. But that would only see one mediocre politician replaced by another. In line would be Michel Temer, the vice-president, Eduardo Cunha, head of Congress, or Renan Calheiros, head of the Senate. The last two face corruption charges.

Brazil’s terrible fall from economic grace“, Financial Times editorial, 14 September 2015.

Ms Dilma is unpopular even with members of her own party. With a parliamentary system, there would likely be a vote of no confidence, triggering a general election. With the American-style presidential system, it is very difficult to remove a head of government, who is also head of state, until the end of his or her term of office.


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