Crisis can be a key catalyst for reform, but all depends on the ability to effectively channel citizen demands and the responsiveness of key political actors. The Channel is clear – the “popular initiative” (Art.62 of the 1988 Constitution), which requires signatures by 1% of the electorate (1.34 million citizens) spread across at least 5 states, with signatures in each state representing at least 0.3% of its electors.*
The problem is responsiveness. Today, Contas Abertas reports that the “10 Measures Against Corruption” popular initiative led by the Public Prosecutor, signed by over 1.5 million citizens, and advanced by 1016 different organizations, has been languishing in the Lower House since its introduction over a month ago. According to the law that regulates popular initiatives (Art.14), Congress “will give pursuance” to the measure, which is treated as a bill rather than a simple proposal. No pursuance is in the offing, however; passage of such reforms by the band of brigands governing the Chamber of Deputies would be tantamount to political suicide.
But responsiveness is not just a matter of current political dispositions; political will can be shaped by media pressure, and that pressure – as I detailed yesterday in relation to ongoing reform efforts of the Coalition for Political Reform – has not been forthcoming. The news media did cover an electronic petition by the organization Avaaz, containing 1.3 million signatures and presented yesterday to the Chamber’s Ethics’ Committee, but proposals to fix or build upon the current political system lack coverage. Read about the 10 Measures here or the English Executive Summary at the link above.
*The popular initiative is regulated by Articles 13-14 of law 9709.