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Rousseff Again Calls for a Plebiscite on Political Reforms

On Wednesday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reiterated her proposal for a plebiscite on reforms to address citizen discontent over corruption and public spending that have fueled massive protests since June.

Rousseff first proposed a plebiscite on June 24.  According to her plan, voters would select from a menu of options to overhaul the nation’s political system and address corruption. The plebiscite would precede any congressional deliberations and Congress would then legislate based on the plebiscite’s results. However, Congress quickly rejected the proposal.  Instead, some members of Congress favored first drawing up a package of political reforms that would then be put to voters for approval in a national referendum.

During a meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Consejo de Desarrollo Económico y Social (Economic and Social development Council—CDES), Rousseff defended the plebiscite, noting that recent protests have demonstrated a deep desire among citizens to have greater and more direct say in their government’s policies.  A plebiscite, she maintained, would offer a chance for greater citizen participation than a referendum and help guide the government’s plans for reform.

While Rousseff’s popularity has suffered since the start of the protests—a MDA Pesquisa poll showed a drop in her approval ratings to 31 percent this week, from 54 percent in June, support for the plebiscite is strong.  According to a Datafolha poll, 68 percent of Brazilians favor holding a plebiscite. The Brazilian Constitution stipulates that any changes to electoral rules must be in force a year before elections. Rousseff had originally hoped to hold the plebiscite before October 5—a year in advance of 2014 elections—but congressional opposition will make that timetable unlikely.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Brazil protests, Brazil, Dilma Rousseff

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