Article | A Review of Political Reform for Women:

Of the many uncertainties that permeate Brazilian politics, changes in electoral legislation in the year before the elections are not part of the list of unpredictability that afflicts us. In Brazil, it’s already customary: a pre-election year is a year of political reform, and 2021, despite everything, was no different.

In the midst of the pandemic, with so many activities suspended in civil society, an attempt was made to pass the largest political-electoral reform since redemocratization in Congress.

The reform included Proposals to Amend the Constitution, Bills of Law and a new Electoral Code containing almost 900 articles that, among other points of concern, also harmed women and minority groups.

Simone de Beauvoir has already said that a political, economic or religious crisis is enough for women’s rights to be questioned, since these are not permanent and we must remain vigilant

Among several setbacks, the reform legalized the financing of male candidacies with financial resources from women candidacies, made the quota of female candidacies more flexible and made the inspection of millionaire party accounts immensely difficult. Fortunately, the Senate slowed down a considerable part of the reform by not adopting the new Electoral Code, which had been approved in the Chamber of Deputies.

Other problematic points that fell during the course of the process were the return of proportional coalitions and the institution of the “Districto”, considered the worst electoral system by political scientists. The system, due to extremely high campaign costs, encourages corruption and favors candidates with more financial resources, thus making it difficult for women and other already underrepresented and underfunded minorities to represent themselves.

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On the other hand, the reform approved the double counting of votes given to women and blacks for the purpose of distributing Party and Electoral Funds among the parties. In other words, subtitles with more women and elected blacks will receive more financial resources.

In this way, the measure alters the strategic calculation of party leaders, who now have a strong incentive to actually support, finance and build competitive candidacies of women and black people. The new rule, along with the one established by the TSE in 2014 to guarantee at least 30% of campaign funds for women candidates, will likely lead to more candidates elected in the next year.

It is worth remembering that since 1995 Brazil has discussed promoting women in politics, and only in the last election was any significant progress made in terms of women’s representation in Congress. In 2018, 77 women were elected to the Chamber of Deputies (15%), an improvement over the 2014 election, when 51 women were elected representatives (10%). The percentage is still very low and places us in the shameful 141st position in the ranking of female representation in parliament, out of 193 countries.

For real in the 2022 elections, the projects should be transformed into law by October 2nd. However, it is a fact that more time and debate with civil society would be needed to make profound changes in electoral legislation. It would be inconceivable that the biggest political reform of the last 30 years was carried out in a hurry, in such an atypical year, in which the priority should be to guide post-pandemic economic and social recovery projects.

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At least, at the end of this one, the balance was positive: abrupt changes and setbacks such as the district and the flexibilization of candidacy quotas and financing for women fell, while incentives for the election of more women and blacks were approved.

We hope that, as a result, Brazil will emerge from the 2022 elections with a more diverse Congress and that we will no longer be the country with the lowest representation of women in South America’s parliament.

After all, having more women occupying spaces of power is fundamental for full female emancipation. To paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the founders of feminism, the question is not about women having power over men, but about themselves.

Carolina Martinelli holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Federal University of Pernambuco. Volunteer in Advocacy at the Vamos Juntas Institute.

Larissa Alfino is Project Director at the Vamos Juntas Institute, graduated in Social Communication from Faculdade Cásper Líbero and ambassador of One Young World.

Let’s go together Institute: supra-partisan network with a national reach that fights for the end of gender inequality in politics, boosting female candidates and mobilizing society in favor of the cause.

Edition: Vinícius Segalla

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