At first, the democratic government of Brazil looks a lot like that of the USA: The Brazilian Federation is the “indissoluble union” of three distinct political entities: the States, the Municipalities and the Federal District. The Union, the states and the Federal District, and the municipalities, are the “spheres of government.” The Federation is set on five fundamental principles: ] sovereignty, citizenship, dignity of human beings, the social values of labour and freedom of enterprise, and political pluralism. The classic tripartite branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial under the checks and balances system), is formally established by the Constitution. The executive and legislative are organized independently in all three spheres of government, while the judiciary is organized only at the federal and state/Federal District spheres.
But then there are some striking differences between the government of Brazil and that of the USA. All members of the executive and legislative branches are directly elected (unlike the USA with its electoral college). Judges and other judicial officials are appointed after passing entry exams. (Passing an entry exam might be a better way to determine a judges qualifications than choosing them according to Party politics,) For most of its democratic history, Brazil has had a multi-party system, proportional representation (Here in the USA we only have two major parties). Voting is compulsory for the literate between 18 and 70 years old and optional for illiterates and those between 16 and 70. (Voting in the USA is not compulsory. However Brazil is not the only Democratic nation that forces its electorate to vote. Australia is another country that requires its citizens to vote.
Together with several smaller parties, four political parties stand out: Workers’ Party (PT), Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), and Democrats (DEM). Fifteen political parties are represented in Congress. In the USA, we only have two parties represented. In the Senate we only have two Independents. All the rest are Democrat or Republican. In the House we have no Independents.
The Australian Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Queen, a 76-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. Twelve Senators from each state are elected for six-year terms, using proportional representation and the single transferable vote (known in Australia as “preferential voting”: with half elected every three years.
Australia has a mild two-party system with two dominant political groupings in the Australian political system, the Australian Labor Party, and the Liberal/National Coalition. Federally, the lower house currently has seven of 150 non-major party MPs, while the upper house has eleven of 76. Australian Greens currently have one seat in the House of Representatives and 9 in their Senate. The Democratic Labor Party, another minor party, has 1 seat in the House of Representatives. Thus in Australia, 23 seats in their government are held by minor party candidates.
A CASE CAN BE MADE FOR COMPULSORY VOTING
Compulsory voting is a system in which electors are obliged to vote in elections or attend a polling place on voting day. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he or she may be subject to punitive measures such as fines, community service, or perhaps imprisonment if fines are unpaid or community service is not performed.
If voters do not want to support any given choice, they may cast spoilt votes or blank votes. According to compulsory voting supporters, this is preferred to not voting at all because it ensures there is no possibility that the person has been intimidated or prevented from voting should they wish. In certain jurisdictions, voters have the option to vote none of the above if they do not support any of the candidates to indicate clear dissatisfaction with the candidate list rather than simple apathy at the whole process.
A result of this setup is that it is therefore more difficult for extremist or special interest groups to vote themselves into power or to influence mainstream candidates. Under a non-compulsory voting system, if fewer people vote then it is easier for smaller sectional interests and lobby groups to motivate a small section of the people to the polls and thereby control the outcome of the political process. The outcome of an election where voting is compulsory reflects more of the will of the people (Who do I want to lead the country?) rather than reflecting who was more able to convince people to take time out of their day to cast a vote (Do I even want to vote today?).
Ten countries enforce compulsory voting:
Argentine, Australia, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Luxembourg, Nauru, Peru, Singaport, Uruguay and Schaffhausen (a canton in Switzerland).
No other democracy on the planet limits itself to an either/or party system as does the USA. Perhaps it’s time that our government allowed other candidates a voice–particularly on the Presidential platform. Just imagine how differently the debates might have looked if Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate has been allowed to debate Obama and Romney on a national stage. Just imagine if instead of having a pre-arranged list of topics chosen by corporate sponsors who donate to the Presidential Commission on Debates, each of the candidates chose a topic that none of the others knew about before the debate and these topics were each debated. Now that would be a debate–a real debate on real topics. Presidential debates in the USA are nothing more than a canned farce–more fitting for a banana republic than a democracy.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVING THE DEMOCRACY OF THE USA
1. Compulsory Voting
2. Elimination of the corporate sponsored Commission for Presidential Debates
3. All Presidential Debates must include all candidates who are on the ballot in at least 30 states.
4. All elections for Federal Office (President, Vice President, U.S. House and U.S. Senate) are managed by the US Federal government. This is possible under the current laws of the land. There would not even have to be a vote on it. States do not have jurisdiction over federal elections. Up until now the Federal offices have been put on state ballots, but this is not required by law. Check it out. The Feds cannot mess with State elections beyond enforcing the Voters Rights Act of 1964, but they could hold a separate Federal election if the leaders decided to do so. Considering the voter suppression carried out in states with Republican governors this year, it would be an excellent idea to separate State from Federal elections.