Party Switching in Brazil: Causes, Effects, and Representation

  • Scott Desposato


Brazil has a long history of frequent party switching by sitting legislators. Although there are other countries with higher rates of switching, most are transitioning democracies with evolving party systems. In such contexts, switching goes hand in hand with less-developed party brands, weaker voter partisan attachments, and evolving norms and procedures of recruitment and hierarchy. The Brazilian case appears to represent a stable long-term equilibrium, with fairly steady rates of switching over the last 20 years: approximately one-third of deputies have switched in each legislature since democratization. Table 5.1 shows switching rates in the last several legislatures. During the 49th legislature (1991–1994), there were 262 incidents of switching, for an average switching rate of .52 per legislator-term. That figure slips slightly to .41 in the second period, and rises to .51 in the third.1 Switching was prohibited for most of Brazil’s authoritarian period (1964–1985), but scholars of previous periods have noted high rates of switching in the 1960s and even as far back as the 1800s (Graham, 1990): Switching apparently was common during the Second Republic (1946–1964), and there is evidence as well of frequent switching during the First Republic (1889–1930).


Ideal Point Private Good Party System Party Affiliation Party Membership 
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© William B. Heller and Carol Mershon 2009

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  • Scott Desposato

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