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Political Parties

"The creation, merging or extinguishment of political parties is free, provided that the respective programs respect the national sovereignity, the democratic regime, the pluripartidarism and the fundamental rights of human persons."; so reads article 2 of Law nr. 9096, which regulates Political Parties in Brazil.
To acquire legal existance, Parties must register with the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (Higher Electoral Tribunal); the TSE publishes a list of all Political Parties in Brazil.
As of April 2005, the TSE lists 27 Parties, ordered by date of registering with the Tribunal; first one listed is PMDB (registered June 30th 1981), last one is PSL (registered June 2nd 1998).

Recent History

With the Military Coup of 1964, all Parties were compulsorily closed. Only two new Parties were allowed to exist: ARENA - Aliança da Renovação Nacional (Alliance for National Renovation), which congregated supporters of the Military intervention, and MDB - Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Movement), which exercized the limited opposition permitted by the Militaries.
In 1980, as a first step towards redemocratization, the existant Parties were allowed to split, the old Parties were allowed to re-open, and new Parties were allowed to be founded.
Most members of ARENA moved to short lasting PDS; PDS split into two large parties, the PFL - Partido da Frente Liberal (Liberal Front Party), and the PPB; PPB changed name and became today PP - Partido Progressista (Progress-ist Party).
MDB was turned into PMDB; in 1989, a good number of members quit PMDB and found PSDB - Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Social Democracy Party).
Of the pre-1964 large Parties, the only one to reappear was PTB - Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazil Labour Party). The old PTB was closely associated with Getúlio Vargas, a President who is respected until today by the poorer. Because of this, there was a fight over the name PTB, between Varga´s daughter, Ivete, and Leonel Brizola, an old ally of Vargas´. Ivete gained the right to use PTB (not just because she was daughter), and Brizola founded PDT - Partido Democrático Trabalhista (Democratic Labour Party).
Of the new Parties, the one which grew the most was PT - Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party). After having success commanding strikes in the auto industries, Union leaders (the most famous of which is current President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva) joined University, Church and other leftists to found PT and gain also political presence.

The situation today

Despite the fact that there are 27 Parties officially registered in Brazil, only a few of them really matter.
PT is the Party of President Lula. PT rules also some States and major cities, but none of the major Brazilian States.
PMDB is the largest Brazilian Party, measured by number of affiliates, number of Deputies and Senators, number of mayors. Because it is big, PMDB is very heterogeneous; people with very different ideologies are members of PMDB, like Rosinha Garotinho (populist Governor of Rio de Janeiro), ex-President José Sarney (who, during all the military period, was a member of ARENA) and Pedro Simon (a true oppositionist to the dictatorship).
PSDB is the Party of ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. PSDB rules the States of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, and recently won the election for the city of São Paulo.
PFL is the Party most to the right. Many members of PFL (the older ones) belonged to ARENA, such as Antônio Carlos Magalhães and Jorge Bornhausen. PFL defends privatization, less taxes, less Government.
PT, PMDB, PSDB and PFL are the most important Parties.

Middle sized Parties: PTB, PDT, PP and PSB.
PTB has a number of votes which doesn´t define any voting, but certainly has influence. PDT used to gravitate around the figure of its founder, Leonel Brizola, who died in 2004. PP is the Party of Paulo Maluf, a supporter of the Militaries who is facing criminal charges because of misuse of public funds. PSB - Partido Socialista Brasileiro (Socialist Party Brazil) elected two Governors in 2002 (Alagoas and Rio Grande do Norte).

Most smaller Parties have just a couple of Representatives.
Deserve mentioning: PPS - Partido Popular Socialista (Social Popular Party), which is the metamorphosis of old Communist Party of Brazil; PV, the Green Party of Brazil; and PSTU - Social Party of United Workers, which defends the same ideas that PT used to before winning the last Presidential election.

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