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Brazil congress tries to contain public opinion fury and ends secret voting system

Thursday, September 5th 2013 - 01:52 UTC
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Congressman Donadon is serving a 13 year prison sentence for corruption but continues in his post Congressman Donadon is serving a 13 year prison sentence for corruption but continues in his post

Brazil's lower house has voted on Wednesday to end the system of secret voting in the national legislature. That's been a main demand from anti-government protesters who've taken to streets since June. And it was one of the five specific reform items that President Dilma Rousseff told lawmakers to pass to meet demonstrators' demands.

Under current Brazilian law, senators and deputies vote on bills in secret. It's only when a lawmaker specifically requests an open ballot that citizens know how their representative voted.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where it's also likely to pass. It was first introduced in the congress in 2006.

Anti-corruption activists have long called for the end to the system, which they say makes it hard for citizens to hold politicians accountable for how they vote.

The decision came just days after legislators voted - in a secret ballot - to allow Congressman Natan Donadon to continue in his post. Donadon is serving a 13-year prison sentence for corruption. He is the first serving Congressman to be sent to prison since Brazil returned to democracy in the 1980s.

Congressional President Henrique Alves said the vote had been a blow for the credibility of Brazilian lawmakers.

The decision was an attempt to counter the criticism the Brazilian Congress has been facing lately. It comes a few days before Brazil's Independence Day, on 7 September, when protests are set to take place across the country.

Members of Congress are worried that, as during the wave of demonstrations in June, much of the people's anger in the upcoming protests will be directed at the politicians, who are seen by many as ineffective and corrupt.

Brazilians' views are still marked by the ongoing Mensalao trial, one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country's recent history, in which several legislators were convicted. The ruling Workers party of former president Lula da Silva and his closest aides are among those sentenced to jail terms.

The case of Donadon and other lawmakers convicted of crimes but still serving in Congress was described as a slap in the face by protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, demanding broad reforms to the education, health care and transport sectors, as well as an end to widespread corruption at all levels of the public sector.

The ability of Congress to hold votes in secret was seen as one of the ways legislators accused of corruption could stay in power, as their colleagues closed ranks without having to face criticism from angry constituents.

Nevertheless during the month of protest the Congress almost unanimously rejected a bill previously tailored by all parties which would contain corruption investigations of lawmakers to the Police, leaving out prosecutors from the Justice department. 

Categories: Politics, Brazil.

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  • GeoffWard2

    Thirteen years in jail for corruption ... guilty but not serving his sentence
    Why not?
    Because Brasil allows unlimited appeals - and allows the convicted individual to continue in public service during a lifetime of appeals.

    So even a Brasilian president shown to have been guilty of spreading corrupt practices to all parts of the national, federal and state governance - by commission, by omission, by 'not being aware of what was going on' - could serve out subsequent terms of office claiming and resorting to the process of lifetime appeal ... or just bald, outright disregard of the laws of the land.

    The Ficha Limpa looked good, it sounded good, but there are so many ways of circumventing 'inconvenient' restraints on making personal fortunes that you have to ask “Is there any hope for the future of Brasil?”

    Sep 05th, 2013 - 11:28 am 0
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