Democratic Constitutionalism in Brazil: Between the Crisis of Representation and Participation

Prof. Rubens Becak

Rubens Becak


This article aims to describe a brief scenario of using representative and participative democratic tools in public decision, while in Brazil almost 30 years after the enactment of its current constitution there is a political moment of scandals related to corruption and to the consequent disrepute of the society towards its representatives, which can be noticed by the growth of electoral abstention. On the other hand, is in force a normative framework with a potential capacity in leading society to a more active participation in order to bring the voter closer to public decisions. Despite the predominance of the model of political representation instrumented by the vote, in the last decades local initiatives in favor of social participation have appeared in Brazil, in order to bring society closer to the decisions that affect it. These initiatives are based on participatory or deliberative instruments such as public hearings, municipal councils and participatory budgeting so that representativeness does not seem more defensible as a unique form of legitimizing political decision. Considering an actual conception of democracy, its applicability does not seem to be restricted only to tools of legitimization or representation, and has been, in some places, sufficient motivation for the expansion of social participation in public management. Based on this contextualization, this article sought to draw a brief explanation about social participation as a complementary form to the representation. Therefore, from the analysis of the popular dissatisfaction highlighted by opinion surveys from 2011 to 2017 plus the examination of the Constitution and a bibliographical survey, the research identified the main instruments of the current constitution that allow some form of local participation as empirically proven by municipal councils, public hearings and participatory budgeting outlining the existence of a normative system of semi-direct democracy composed of programmatic principles and another tools with potential to change the current panorama.