Structure of the Brazilian Political System

The Brazilian electronic ballot box started to be implemented in the country in 1996.

Brazil is a democratic, federative republic, divided by states and a federal district. Brazilian citizens are obliged to vote, and it is up to the population to choose their Legislative and Executive representatives.

Every two years, Brazilians vote to select who is going to represent them in the Executive and in the Legislative power. Members of the Judiciary, however, are not chosen directly by the people: other judges, magistrates and the president decide who will occupy the disputed positions.

Nowadays, there are two elections in Brazil, the national and the municipality one. Each of them occurs every four years. The most recent national elections ended last Sunday, October 26th, whilst the next municipality representatives will be chosen in 2016.

At the national elections, Brazilians must vote for:

  • President
  • State Governor
  • Senator
  • Federal Representative
  • State Representative

At the municipal elections, Brazilians must elect:

  • Mayor
  • City councilman

In both elections, voting is mandatory. Anyone who can not vote must justify their absence or pay a fine, which is currently BRL 3,50. If the citizen does not do either of these, they will lose various rights, such as occupying a governmental position, or obtaining a passport for example.

Positions of the Executive Power

From all the positions above, the ones relating to the executive power are the president, governor and mayor. Each one of them acts at a specific level – federal, state and municipality, respectively.


The president, or Presidente da República, is the head of State and head of government in Brazil. It is up to the president to choose their aides and ministers, without further objection from the National Congress.

Some of the functions of the Brazilian president are:

  • Concluding treaties and agreements with other nations
  • Power to sanction, enact, promulgate and veto national laws
  • Declare state of emergency

The president is located in the country’s capital city, Brasília. In case of vacancy, the successor is the vice-president. If he or she is unable to assume the position, the provisional succession is made, in preferential order, by the president of the National Congress, the president of the Senate and the president of the Federal Supreme Court.

State Governor

The maximum executive authority in each state is the governor, known as governador. There are 27 governors in Brazil – one for each state and for the Federal District as well – elected every four years at the national elections.

The governor is one of the main connections between the state and the federal government, seeking to close agreements and investment projects to improve the location where they were elected. The governor also counts with secretaries, which are similar to the ministers seen at a federal level.

Some of the functions of a governor are:

  • Power to sanction, enact, promulgate and veto state laws
  • Providing security to citizens
  • Promoting education
  • Ensure that everyone has access to sanitation
  • Providing public transportation between cities


A mayor, or prefeito, is the maximum executive authority in a municipality. Each mayor chooses municipality secretaries to support the city’s administration and improvement.

Some of the mayors responsibilities are:

  • To improve local education, healthcare and culture through municipality programs
  • Provide public transportation for the city’s population
  • Planning and construction of civil and social works, including works related to habitation
  • Power to sanction, enact, promulgate and veto local laws

Besides the secretaries, mayors from large cities are also supported by submayors, or subprefeitos. These people, that are not necessarily politicians, work as some sort of local leader, providing support and noticing questions happening in specific regions of the city.

Positions of the Legislative Power

As the name says, the legislative power is directly linked to laws. They are responsible for proposing, writing and approving law projects, submitting them to an executive authority further on.


Senators, or senadores, represent each state at the Senate, located in Brasília, and are elected directly by the population at national elections. It is their duty to:

  • Protect the constitutional rights of the Brazilian population
  • Analyze and vote law projects
  • Approve the choice of ministers
  • Authorize financial foreign transactions and approving debt limits

There are three representatives for each state at the Senate, whose term of office is eight years. Senators are elected at national elections, alternatively: in 2010, two senators were elected per state; in 2014, only one entered the Senate; in 2018, two more will be elected, and so on.

Federal and State Representatives

Different from the senators that represent the state, congressmen represent the population. Federal congressmen are known as deputados federais, while state congressmen are known as deputados estaduais. Both of them are elected at national elections and have the main function of proposing, enacting, changing and revoking laws.

The main difference is the coverage of such laws. While the federal congressmen create and vote federal laws, valid for the entire Brazilian territory, state ones do so for their specific territory.

All the work of federal congressmen happens at the National Congress, known as Congresso Nacional or Câmara dos Deputados, located in Brasília, while deputados estaduais work at a Legislative Assembly, known as Assembleia Legislativa, located in each state.

Each Legislative Assembly has a minimum of 24 state congressmen and a maximum of 94. This amount varies according to the population size. At the National Congress, there are a total of 513 federal congressmen.

City Councilman

The city councilman is known as vereador in Brazil. They are elected for a four year term, at the municipality elections. The number of councilmen in each city varies according to its population, 9 being the minimum amount accepted and 55 the maximum.

The main functions of city councilmen are the proposal of municipality laws and the fiscalization of the city’s finances and of the mayor’s performance. They work at the Municipality Chamber, known as Câmara Municipal.

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