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Publicly Funded Elections | The Benches and the Back Rooms

Zany crooner receives second highest vote count in the history of Brazil

Zany crooner receives second highest vote count in the history of Brazil

A Congressional bench representing business interests, ruralists and evangelical Christians resists putting an end to private financing of election campaigns. A transitional measure, using a hybrid system and limiting donations, is being studied.

Source:  Rede Brasil Atual.

By Hylda Cavalcanti

Brasília – Pressure from back benchers representing business interests, ruralists and evangelical Christians in the national Congress are running a risk in preventing the addition of exclusive public financing of elections to a draft bill on political reform. Today, the technical group working on the issue will hold one of its last meetings to discuss the provisions that need to be included in the language of the bill.

On the agenda, and besides the question of partisan coalitions, is a debate on what conclusions about the participation of private companies in election campaigns will be drawn. If the debate on the topic follows the same line as in recent days, congressional deputies are expected to support the creation of a hybrid system in order to permit both public financing and private donations up to a certain spending limit and during a given period of time. This will be understood as a way of transitioning to exclusively public financing of elections in future elections.

Many deputies who favor exclusively public financing — a proposal that was declared an official policy position of the PT national leadership and congressional contingent, and counts on the support of parties including the PCdoB, PSol and organized civil society, such as CNBB, OAB, CUT and UNE –- are skeptical. They are working to do away with private financing, but admit it is nearly impossible to include this provision in the next draft of the bill. For this reason, they have agreed to negotiate wording that would allow  more flexibility. 

The coordination of the technical team on political reform, Cândido Vaccarezza (SP), says he is ready to approve a model that includes both types of financing, in a system not dissimilar from the current one. “Unfortunately, it does no good. My view is that the PT proposal for exclusive publoic financing is a small minority. I have already warned everyone that the party will not win this parade,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PT leader in the Senado, Wellington Dias (PI), considers the end of private financing a key point for any political reform. “The  current model enables the purchase of mandates, especially in the legislative ara. We need to lobby lawmakers and work to bring this change about,” Dias said.

Campaign Spending

Among the difficulties of passing the bill is the amount currently spent on a campaign for the federal lower house — according to entities such as  Transparência Brasil, the amount is R$ 5 million. As to big business interests — heavy industry, finance, services, communication, mining and agribusiness — they want to retain the prerogative of injecting money in order to exert influence in the house. The same goes for the evangelical benches. And all of these forces are working to increase in size starting in January 2015. 

In the working group, those opposed to the end of private funding are deputies Sandro Alex (PPS-PR) and Júlio Delgado (PSB-MG). In political maneuvers outside the group, they count on the support of PMDB party leader Eduardo Cunha (RJ).

Cunha stated publicly in the plenary session of the House last week that approving the end of private funding is “unattainable in reality.” “We all know that this (private funding) is not going to end,” he said in conclusion. Júlio Delgado (PSB-MG) said that while he supports public financing, the functioning of this type of system is complicated. “We have no way of auditing the amount of money that each party raises, and no way of preventing recipients of public funds from receiving supplementary private ones,” he said.

Federal legislator Henrique Fontana (PT-RS), who was rapporteur of a political reform bill until being excluded from the working group by the influential speaker of the house Henrique Alves (PMDB-RN), intends to include the issue in a “mini-bill” on election reform and, depending on the support received, insist on presenting the campaign finance provisions in some other political reform bill as amendments. “It is necessary to prevent the financing of campaigns by businesses. If some degree of private finance is to tolerated, then let it be offered to individual donors, with a limit on the amount donated and a ceiling on donations and spending per donor and for every single candidate,” he argues.

Fontana is not hostile to flexibility if it turns out to be an alternative way to pass a transitional set of rules.  “If we are not careful, we will wind up Americanizing our elections, in which increasingly the candidate with the most resources wins. We should avoid this. We should make political representation as heterogeneous as possible so that Congress is closer to the people.”

Public Services

Antonio Brito (PTB-BA) is another working group member opposed to the exclusively public financing of elections. “Public resources should be used for public services, not campaign finance,” he says, in response to arguments by civil society groups that the influence of private donors over public authorities is more costly to the public coffers. Not by accident, the PTB has one of the largest benches in the Congress.

O deputado Sandro Alex (PPS-PR) segue na mesmas toada. “Não aceito financiamento público e também não concordo com o modelo atual. Deveriam existir apenas doações de pessoas físicas. Se não existe dinheiro para melhoria de serviços que a população cobra como é que se vai pegar dinheiro público para as campanhas?”

O presidente do PT no Distrito Federal, deputado Roberto Policarpo (DF), afirma que considera fundamental para o país o financiamento público de campanha. “É preciso democratizar as eleições, diminuir a interferência do poder econômico. O financiamento público exclusivo é a melhor forma de dar oportunidade a todos de poderem concorrer ao processo eletivo com igualdade de condições”, acrescentou.

Sistema híbrido

Fazem parte do grupo dos que defendem um sistema híbrido a líder do PCdoB na Câmara, Manuela D’Ávila (RS), e parlamentares como Marcus Pestana (PSDB-MG). Pestana acredita que é preciso evitar impasses que levem ao fracasso da proposta, por isso defende discussão para que o grupo chegue a um consenso.

“Defendo que o financiamento pode ser privado, tanto por pessoa jurídica quanto física, mas que seja feito por meio dos partidos, e o partido organize seu orçamento. É preciso evoluir para que parte dos recursos seja repartida igualmente entre toda a chapa. Financiamento público exclusivo é rejeitado pela população, não é viável para o atual sistema”, declarou o tucano.

Manuela, por sua vez, destacou que o PCdoB defende o fim do financiamento privado, mas aceita um financiamento público com financiamento, também, de pessoas físicas até um certo teto.

Em meio a essa polêmica, o coordenador do grupo técnico Cândido Vaccarezza (SP), lembrou que toda a discussão passará pelo crivo da população, já que a proposta será objeto de um referendo, o que dará maior fortalecimento ao anteprojeto.