The president of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (Supreme Court) Joaquim Barbosa argued in favour of diminishing the influence of political parties in decisions referred to the Brazilian people’s interest and supports the introduction of what he called “puffs of popular expression” in the current political system.
“Brazil is going through a crisis of representativeness and legitimacy and is fed up with cupola reforms” said Justice Barbosa. “Look at Brazil’s history, all crucial moments of our history had cupola solutions. Independence was a collusion between the Portuguese and Brazilian elites. When the Republic the people was left out completely of the November 15 deal, without having a clue of what was going on”
Justice Barbosa talked with the press on Tuesday afternoon following a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff who invited him to the Planalto Palace to discuss the protests that have taken over the streets of more than a hundred Brazilian cities in demonstrations self-organized, peaceful and with clear objectives.
Although the Justice that has been identified by protestors as their reference because of his proven honesty and transparency (a rare quality in Brazilian politics and the three government branches) he did not say if he agreed with convening or not a constitutional assembly to implement political reforms. However he does support consulting the people on issues as those currently in the political agenda.
“The Constitution tells us clearly how to exercise democracy in the country. Universal direct vote and formalities of direct democracy with instruments such as the plebiscite, referendum or popular consultations, but it is evident there is an awareness of the need for Brazil to include the people in those discussions”, argued Barbosa.
During the meeting the Justice says to have brought up some suggestions about what he defined as “puffs of popular expression”, among which he mentioned the district vote, that would have a very positive effect “since the citizen who deposited the ballot will effectively know who he is voting for”.
He also supported eliminating the list of surrogates in the Senate. “This is a totally unjustified practice; we have a high percentage of Senators who were not elected but who for some reason or other are in the surrogates’ list of a strong candidate, and after some time, because the head resigns, dies or takes another job within the Executive, the surrogate moves in, and who is he? We don’t know”.
Barbosa mentioned his experience in Rio do Janeiro, his voting district, where he ignores the name of the Rio Senators’ surrogates.
The Justice who at all times made it clear he was talking for himself and not for the Tribunal, said he favoured changing the organization of Brazilian electoral tribunals, since three of the seven members are lawyers whom “until 18:00 hours of every day are solicitors and from 19:00 hours onwards judges. It would not be absurd to end this system”.
But Barbosa also pointed out that for a political reform, amending the constitution is needed, “it’s not enough with ordinary bills”.
“You can’t have a consistent political reform in Brazil without altering the constitution. Any person with minimum knowledge knows this is essential” said the Justice adding that “the constitution describes not only how the president is elected, but also Senators and members of the Lower House. Any measure that alters the process needs changes in the constitution. Ordinary bills are not enough to implement a political reform; that is my opinion”, he said.
Barbosa also mentioned other points which he considers important such as the viability of non partisan candidacies. Currently in Brazil any elected candidate must be a registered member of a party because the thinking is that the seat belongs to the party.
“Since our democracy is missing this identity option, why not let the people chose directly whom he wishes to vote. Why the necessary intermediation of worn-down exhausted political parties? In some democracies the independent candidates are a real success and mentioned Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York.
Finally Barbosa speaking about Brazilian magistrates and the Judiciary again complained about those judges who act in politics or are linked to politics, with the purpose of a fast climb in their careers.
“We need a radical reform in the Judiciary service, drastically cutting the number of magistrates named ‘on merits’”.
“We know very well how this works out in Brazil. With the so called merits’ promotion in the majority of cases there are no merits involved at all. They are picked because they have more political track. Those who are impeccable, that only think on their magistrate duties and responsibilities, never make it”.
“I don’t see why politicians have to be interested in the promotion of judges. If they are interested it can only be to have an influence on judicial decisions”, concluded Justice Barbosa.