September 6, 2017 / 12:42 AM / 3 months ago

Brazil Congress advances bill to curb party proliferation

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill to reduce the huge array of political parties that have made it hard to govern the country and contributed to corruption.

The chamber voted 384-16 for the establishment of a minimum national vote threshold that parties must reach to get public funding and free radio and television time for their election campaigns. The requirement would be 1.5 percent of votes in 2018, rising to 3 percent in 2030.

The constitutional amendment must be approved twice in each chamber of Congress by Oct. 7 to apply in next year’s general elections.

The proliferation of parties has forced Brazilian governments to forge unwieldy coalitions to stay in power by distributing jobs, influence and pork barrel spending, which critics say has provided fertile ground for graft.

Small parties facing extinction opposed the vote threshold, which they said would favor larger established parties and hinder renewal of Brazil’s scandal-plagued political class.

The amendment also seeks to do away with the loose, ad hoc coalitions that parties often form on an election-by-election basis, regardless of ideology or platform.

Brazil currently has 35 political parties, 28 of which are represented in Congress. One of them, the Brazilian Women’s Party, has only one federal lawmaker, who is a man.

Brazil’s public funding model has encouraged the founding of new parties, several of them with no clear platforms. There are currently 67 requests to register new parties, according to Brazil’s top electoral court.

A sweeping three-year-old probe of endemic corruption in Brazil has uncovered a web of political bribes and kickbacks implicating dozens of politicians, including President Michel Temer and a quarter of his cabinet.

Next week lawmakers will vote on a separate amendment creating a new fund of taxpayer money to finance campaigns.

That amendment would also replace a system of party lists to elect congressmen with races in which individual candidates with the most votes would win office.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Andrew Hay

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