Majority influence in proportional elections: the case of Brazilian mayors and city councilors

by Bruno Marques Schaefer and Tiago Alexandre Leme Barbosa

Translated and reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling


Brazil has the most fragmented party system in the world. In 2018, 30 parties obtained at least one seat in the Lower House, with the effective number of parties being 16.4. This value is pointed out by several analysts as one of the obstacles to governance, given that the presidential party usually does not win a majority in the Legislature and must resort to multiparty coalitions to govern and to remain in office.
The diagnosis of the fragmentation of the party system was accompanied by several attempts at treatment. Institution of a barrier clause, limitation of financing to small parties, changes in the electoral system, end of proportional coalitions, among others. According to some researchers, the root of fragmentation lies precisely in the electoral system for the choice of legislators, namely: the open-list proportional system. As in this system, the party list is defined by the voter, candidates would have incentives to run personalized campaigns. Allied to this, the possibility of coalitions in proportional elections would benefit small parties (increasing fragmentation), in addition to distorting democratic representation itself (the will of the voter would be diluted).
In 2017, the National Congress approved a political reform (Constitutional Amendment No. 97), which prohibited proportional coalitions from 2020. This measure is expected to have a profound effect on the size of the party system: mainly with the loss of relevance of parties small. As political actors react to institutional changes, the question remains as to what the strategies of candidates and parties will be.
One of the hypotheses, dealt with here in an exploratory way, is that the parties would launch more candidates for the Municipal Executives, as a way to guarantee that the candidates of the proportional party list (councilors) win more votes. This is known as the coattail effect. According to Soares (2013, p.434): “The term coattail refers to the rear flaps of a cutaway that, too long, drag objects when moving. The metaphor was used by the Political Science of the United States to refer […] to the ability of a strong candidate to drag votes to other candidates in their parties”.
The objective is to observe what is the effect of casting candidates for mayor on the number of votes for the City Council in the Brazilian case?

Preliminary data and results
This research is ongoing, so the choice of variables is still limited and exploratory. To observe the possible influence of the majority elections on the results in the proportional elections, data were collected from the votes of all Brazilian parties in 2016. Brazil has 5570 municipalities and, at that time, 35 parties. The unit of analysis was the party’s vote in the municipality (82170 observations).
First, there is a difference between the performance of the parties based on whether or not they are candidates for the position of mayor. The data are compared from three groups: (0) parties without candidates for mayor, (1) parties with “first-time” candidates, and (2) parties with incumbent candidates. It is credible to think that parties that launch mandated candidates have greater resources for the competition and, with that, more votes. From the ANOVA test of difference of means, statistically, significant differences are observed. Group 0 parties had, on average, 5% of the votes in the elections for the City Council, Group 1 13%, and Group 2 20%.

The descriptive analysis of the data shows differences in party votes. However, to answer the previous question and observe the effect of the majority candidacy on the proportional vote, other tests are necessary. Eight multiple linear regression tests were performed, considering as a dependent variable the percentage of votes of each party in the elections for the City Councils. The independent variable is whether or not the party has a candidate for mayor. The control variables are the party’s proportional vote in the previous election (2012), the number of candidates cast by the party in the municipality, and the total number of voters. The first two variables are expected to have a positive effect on the number of party votes: the previous vote indicates the degree of permeability of the organization and the greater the number of candidates the greater the vote. The total number of voters is expected to have a negative direction, given that the larger the “hunting territory”, the greater the fragmentation of alternatives to the electorate.

The results of the models confirm the coattail effect, but with weightings. In the case of model 1, the Candidato_Pref_2016 variable measures whether or not the party launched a candidate for mayor, regardless of the status of that candidate. Casting a candidate means adding 53% of the votes to the proportional list. However, when this variable is controlled (model 2), the effect is 7%, with the party’s vote in the previous election having a greater impact.
In model 3, candidates for mayor “novices” are considered. The effect is an increase of 43% without controls, but with controls, it decreases to 5%. In models 5 and 6, what is observed is the effect of candidates for reelection. When considering only this variable, incumbent parties tend to have 78% more votes than the others. However, with controls, this effect drops to 12% more votes. In model 7, it is possible to confirm the other results, and the party’s vote in 2012 continues to have the greatest effect on the proportional vote in 2016.
Finally, in model 8, the test is only among the parties that launched candidates for mayor in 2016. As can be seen, by the variable Vot_Pref_2016, the increase of 1% of the votes in the majority election represents 0.42% more votes in the election proportional, even with other control variables. This result is intuitive, but it has not yet been tested in the case of municipal elections in Brazil: the greater the vote for the candidate for mayor, the greater the benefits for party colleagues running for proportional elections.

Even though this research is initial, it is possible to draw some conclusions. Parties that cast mayoral candidates (novice or incumbent) tend to have better proportional votes when compared to parties that did not. This result reinforces the coattail effect argument.
However, when this variable is controlled by the party’s previous vote, the value of launching a candidate is drastically reduced. This demonstrates that there is a precedent effect on the performance of Brazilian political parties at the local level. If the strategy of the parties in 2020 is simply to launch candidates for mayor with the hope that they will boost their lists in proportional elections, it is necessary to realize that the results are mediated by other variables: the party’s previous performance in the municipality and the candidate’s competitiveness. launches in the majority election.

The authors received CAPES’ funding for this work.


More on

Silva, P., Davidian, A., Freitas, A., & Cazzolato, J. D. (2015). Reforma política no Brasil: indagações sobre o impacto no sistema partidário e na representação. Opinião Pública, 21(1), 1-32.

Mainwaring, S. (1999). Rethinking party systems in the third wave of democratization: the case of Brazil. Stanford University Press.

Ames, B. (2002). The deadlock of democracy in Brazil. University of Michigan Press.

Miguel, L. F., & Assis, P. P. F. B. D. (2016). Coligações eleitorais e fragmentação das bancadas parlamentares no Brasil: simulações a partir das eleições de 2014. Revista de Sociologia e Política, 24(60), 29-46.

Além das incertezas próprias das crises política, econômica e social, causadas (e agravadas) pela pandemia da Covid-19

Soares, M. M. (2013). Influência Majoritária em eleições proporcionais: os efeitos presidenciais e governatoriais sobre as eleições para a Câmara dos Deputados Brasileira (1994-2010). Dados, 56(2), 413-437.

Data available on Tribunal Superior Eleitoral’s (TSE) website.

Samuels, D. (2001). Incumbents and challengers on a level playing field: assessing the impact of campaign finance in Brazil. Journal of Politics, 63(2), 569-584.

Transformaded in logarythm.

The 1% additional votes in 2012 represent 0,17% of votes in 2016.

October 19th, 2020|Categories: Vol. 1 Num. 2|Tags: |

The 2020 Brazilian municipal elections as a test for Bolsonaro’s increasing popularity

by Jayane Maia

Reviewed by Danielle Griffin

The first round of the upcoming municipal elections in Brazil will take place on 15th November of this year, with over a one-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic[1]. Both the public and scholars will need to wait a little bit to unfold the many expectations that come with these elections. Of course, each election entails some degree of expectation, especially in a country such as Brazil, where there is a high party fragmentation and an unstable party system, and thus a high degree of uncertainty about who the winners will be. However, two contextual facts make these elections more interesting to both the public’s and scholars’ eyes. First, it’s the first election since democratization that will happen in the middle of a pandemic – along with all of its challenges. Second, it’s the first one since Jair Bolsonaro’s election in 2018.

These two contextual facts certainly bring more uncertainty to the polls, and their consequences are still to be seen, although some of them can be already predicted based on data that have been collected and recent events that have happened in Brazilian politics.

The pandemic has hit Brazil in several ways, showing – or better, intensifying – its greatest weaknesses. It tested (and is still testing) the resilience of not only the Brazilian public but also Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. There’s no doubt (or at least there shouldn’t be) that the federal government, which he as the president of Brazil represents, has acted poorly regarding the measures to prevent the pandemic from spreading throughout the country. The earlier stages of the pandemic were marked by haphazard, shortsighted decisions taken by the federal government, which have had lethal consequences – by the time I wrote this piece, over 146,000 Brazilians had lost their lives due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro showed more concern for his and his family’s ‘personal security’, which resulted in the resignation of the justice minister Sergio Moro in April, than for the containment of the virus (which in April had already claimed more than 3,300 lives).

Now, seven months later, the daily coronavirus infection rate in Brazil has been decreasing since the first week of September, while Bolsonaro’s approval is going up: for the first time since May 2019, the president’s approval rating is higher than his disapproval rating.[2] This confirms the trend registered in July of Bolsonaro’s popularity increasing. Although I could concentrate on trying to explain the reasons for this increase (among them is certainly the emergency aid – auxílio emergencial – that about 45% of Brazilian families have been receiving since April), I would rather dig into its possible consequences, especially politically.

Obviously, we should rely on opinion polls to predict not only voters’ electoral behavior but also the strategies used by political parties and their leaders. Nevertheless, it’s the upcoming municipal elections that will tell us whether nor not Bolsonaro’s popularity is strong. They will reveal the real chances that the Bolsonarismo stands. In fact, existing scholarship has already borne out the influence of the national arena on the subnational level. If we consider local elections as second-order ones, they are likely to work as a barometer for the next national polls and/or should mirror the results of the last ones (Swenden and Maddens 2009). In this case, considering the current context in which Bolsonaro was elected and that his popularity is increasing, one possible scenario is that his allies at the local level will hold the power in a large part of the municipalities. It’s worth noting, for instance, that the opposite happened with the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) in 2016: the crisis that the party went through at the national level cost it the loss of more than a half of the municipalities where the party was in charge. Therefore, it’s possible that Bolsonaro’s allies will take advantage of his increasing approval by attaching themselves to his image in order to be elected in November. Marcelo Crivella (Republicanos), the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, has already given this strategy a shot[3], despite the uncertainty around his eligibility due to accusations of abuse of political power.

Marcelo Crivella and Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Reproduction/Wikipedia

However, the idea of second-order politics is not the only approach used to analyze local elections. Existing literature has also tackled the autonomy of the subnational level as an arena of electoral competition (Gibson and Suarez-Cao 2010; Došek and Freidenberg 2013). In other words, we should consider that the local context, i.e. states, provinces and municipalities, has its own political dynamics that do not necessarily depend on what happens at the national level. According to this perspective, voters might see local elections as having their own relevance, consider them an opportunity to address local issues and go in a different direction from the national arena. A good example of the independence of the subnational electoral competition in Brazil is the fact that the Brazilian Democratic Movement (Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, MDB) is the party that has held the highest number of mayors and city councilors since 2000, despite the fact that it has not yet been elected to the national executive power. From this perspective, Bolsonaro’s recent approval might not secure the victory of his allies (we cannot name a party, as the president is currently without one). Moreover, voters might see the upcoming municipal elections as a way of rewarding or punishing political authorities based on their actions (or lack thereof) regarding the pandemic. In fact, disagreement between levels of government and national and subnational authorities were, unfortunately, a feature of the struggle to stop the spread of the virus in Brazil.

To sum things up, nobody can be totally sure of what the results of the 2020 Brazilian municipal elections will be. We’re all thinking about them in order to guess what an unforeseen future holds for us. However, one thing is certain: Bolsonaro knows that his reelection depends on having the support of local politicians who are closer to the voters and might serve as a decisive electoral link. It’s not aimlessly that he has been supporting some candidacies (not yet publicly) such as Celso Russomanno (Republicanos), who will run for mayor in the city of São Paulo, the largest electoral college in Brazil. After all, one lesson that he has learned from the pandemic is that good alliances can hold politicians in power, regardless of their mistakes.

Jair Bolsonaro and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia (Democratas). Photo: Reproduction/Wikipedia.


Jayane Maia is a research fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and a doctoral student at the University of Hamburg. She holds a scholarship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Email:



Došek, Tomás and Freidenberg, Flavia. 2013. “La congruencia de los partidos y los sistemas de partidos multinivel en América Latina: conceptualización y evaluación de algunas herramientas de medición”. Politai: Revista de Ciencia Política, no. 7, pp. 161-178.

Gibson, Edward L. and Suarez-Cao, Julieta. 2010. “Federalized Party Systems and Subnational Party Competition: Theory and an Empirical Application to Argentina”. Comparative Politics, 43(1), pp. 21-39

Swenden, Wilfried and Maddens, Bart. 2009. “Territorial Party Politics in Western Europe: A Framework for Analysis”. In: Territorial party politics in Western Europe, eds. Wilfried Swenden and Bart Maddens. UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-30.


[1] The first round usually takes place in October every four years.

[2] See,aprovacao-de-bolsonaro-chega-a-37-maior-desde-marco-de-2019-mostra-pesquisa-xpipespe,70003402719

[3] See

October 12th, 2020|Categories: Vol. 1 Num. 2|Tags: |

Self-regulation on a local credit union

by Matheus Zago, University of Würzburg

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

Cooperation is a collective action between two or more people, for a common purpose. Records in cooperation exist throughout the history of humankind, and various forms of cooperation between humans have been noticed since antiquity[1]. The action is as old as human relations. Every day individuals have helped each other to overcome obstacles or to defend themselves from the weather, diseases, hunger, misery, etc. This concept is also related to modern times and is used in organizations that are called cooperatives. 

A cooperative is a group or association of people who have voluntarily joined to fulfill economic, social, and/or cultural needs and aspirations. It is during the period of the industrial revolution in Europe that cooperatives, as we know it today, have developed. 

The beginning of industrial development during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries marked by industrial and commercial dynamism and the emergence of urban centers in extreme economic and social difficulties. The effects of this process were the exploitation of workers, particularly women and children, and a reduction in wages[2]. Also, an increase in the cost of living, and a rise in unemployment rates are other characteristics of this period.

To improve their economic and social conditions, in 1843, workers in the textile industry, who were working in Rochdale in the district of Lancashire, England, requested a wage increase and started a strike to improve their working conditions. The adverse environment explains the need for organization among the workers who founded a consumer cooperative to change their possibility of economic and social integration. Its larger goal was (and is) to improve the economic status of its owners and secure resources and work. The success of this experience turned the Rochdale Pioneers into a symbol followed by cooperatives all over the world. 

In general, cooperatives are founded on the principle of self-governance. Members of these organizations are inspired by the spirit of mutual help, with an obligation to share a ‘common bond’. Some cooperative experiences can give us examples of solidarity, self-governance, inter‐cooperation, and democracy.

Our research investigates a credit cooperative that was established in Brazil in 1919. The organization — Sicredi Vale do Rio Pardo, belongs to the group of the first community credit institutions in Brazil known as Caixas Populares Raiffeisen, which was similar to the German Raiffeisen model. Its governance has inspired many other credit union institutions in the country. The management model has also gone through several transformations, both by regulatory means of the Brazilian State and by the internal actions of its members.

Caixa União Popular de Santa Cruz, photo by Gazeta do Sul.

Today Sicredi (Sistema de Crédito Cooperativo / Cooperative Credit System) has 114 local credit cooperatives and more than 1,600 branches[3]. The oldest cooperative of the Sicredi system was created in 1902 in the municipality of Nova Petrópolis, in the district of Linha Imperial, Rio Grande do Sul. 

The cooperative system is conceptualized as a network, and it is composed of a group of people, companies, and other organizations; with a common strategy, structure, and management process. It is interesting to note that the singular cooperatives of Sicredi are connected to a national confederation. Therefore, the confederation is responsible for the coordination and representation of the system, including the integration that allows cooperatives to use and take part in the national financial system.

The whole financial conglomerate has 4 million members, and operates in 22 Brazilian states (Acre, Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Paraíba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe e Tocantins). Sicredi has about 25 thousand employees and controls R$ 96 billion ($24.6 billion US dollars) in shareholders’ equity, and R$ 15 billion ($3.85 billion dollars) in assets[4].

The building of the new Sicredi headquarters, Santa Cruz do Sul, 2019 – Author’s archive.

We aim to understand the trajectory Sicredi Vale do Rio Pardo and its capacity for self-organization and self-governance in a local context. For that, we search concepts and theoretical approaches through a literature review on local self-governance, weak statehood, historical institutionalism, and existing studies about Sicredi to:

a) understand the dynamics and expansion of the cooperative in a local, historical, and socioeconomic context, with a strong presence of European immigration.

b) verify the local self-organization capacity of the credit union during different Brazilian political regimes. 

c) investigate the organization’s interaction with different actors – church, estate authorities, society; and trace relational patterns (substitutive, subsidiary, complementary, contrary) for comparative analysis.

d) verify scenarios for an open, democratic, and self-organized credit union.

The nature of the work also required direct contact with the credit union to understand its local self-regulatory processes and governance. So field research was conducted over four months in Santa Cruz do Sul, and neighboring cities in the Federal State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The collection of empirical data took place in parallel with a theoretical study of topics related to self-organization in credit cooperatives.

The research is still in progress and differs from other literature on credit unions for putting the emphasis on bottom-up analysis focusing on local relationships and aspects of a singular credit cooperative, rather than using top-down analysis based on executive actions or banking legislation at the national level.

 The research is integrated into a larger project called Lokale Selbstregelungen im Kontext schwacher Staatlichkeit in Antike und Moderne — LoSAM (DFG research group 2757) see (PFEILSCHIFTER et al., 2019)[5]. The project received financial support from the Deutsch Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and it analyzes local self-regulation across a range of disciplines, including Political Science, Sociology, Human Geography, Ancient History, Theology, and Archaeology. Our project has an interdisciplinary character, as dialogue occurs between disciplines, sharing mutual theoretical and methodological identity[6]. The research effort is developed and strengthened using literature from a variety of disciplines, such as organizational political science, sociology, public policy, and history, where necessary. The interdisciplinary perspective adopted in the thesis happened both for the multidisciplinary nature of the research topic and for the contribution to the policy debate, which was one the aim of the research.

For the general development of the work, the group proposed five key questions: Was wird geregelt? Wer regelt? Wie wird geregelt? Wo wird geregelt? Warum wird geregelt? Wie werden die Beziehungen der lokalen Gruppen mit dem Staat geregelt? (What it regulates? Who regulates it? How is it regulated? Where is it regulated? Why is it regulated? How are the relations of local groups with the state-regulated?) These questions guided the focus of the research and established a channel for direct interaction with the other members of the DFG research group 2757. 

Einladung zur ordentlichen Hauptversammlung der Volksverein Santa Cruz / Invitation to ordinary general meeting session of Caixa União Popular de Santa Cruz. Kolonie Newspaper, 1925.

The thesis uses both primary and secondary sources. A set of documents was gathered at the administrative headquarters of the credit cooperative, comprising 100 years of existence of the institutions, from its foundation in 1919 until the year 2019. The documents included minutes of general meetings (ordinary and extraordinary), financial and administrative reports, annual reports, fiscal reports, and bylaws. Besides, information about the cooperative’s activities and the social position held by its members were collected in local newspapers and magazines. Additional primary sources include semi-structured interviews and focus groups conducted with members of the cooperative in person and by telephone. 

Secondary sources for this research included articles, books, and newspapers on credit unions, economy, immigration near Rio Grande do Sul, theses, and dissertations on the credit union system, and Sicredi Vale do Rio Pardo and governance model. With data analysis, it is expected to understand the different forms of governance of the cooperative and its examples of self-management. 


Matheus Jones Zago is a Phd candidate of Wurzburg University and a DFG research fellow on the project LoSAM Lokale Selbstregelungen im Kontext schwacher Staatlichkeit in Antike und Moderne.


More on

[1] Mladenatz et al. 1944

[2] For living standards of workers in the cotton textile industry during England industrialization see: Hopkins 1982; Brown 1990

[3] Source: Sicredi institutional website (2019). Available on: accessed on: 13.08.2019

[4] Sicredi webpage: access in: 17/06/2019

[5] Pfeilschifter, Rene et al. 2019. “Local Self-Governance in the Context of Weak Statehood in Antiquity and the Modern Era – Lokale Selbstregelungen im Kontext schwacher Staatlichkeit in Antike und Moderne. Ein Forschungsprogramm für einen Perspektivwechsel.” LoSAM Working Papers 1. Universität Würzburg. 37 pages. 

[6] Hans-Joachim Lauth et al. 2019. “Interdisziplinarität. Eine Grundlegung zu Begriffen, Theorien und Methoden in einer geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschungsgruppe,”. LoSAM Working Papers 2, Universität Würzburg  50 pages,

October 5th, 2020|Categories: Vol. 1 Num. 2|Tags: |

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