Brazilian Social Democracy Party

"PSDB" redirects here. For the romanization method of Taiwanese Hokkien, see Phofsit Daibuun.
Brazilian Social Democracy Party
Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira
President Aécio Neves
Founded June 25, 1988
Split from PMDB
Headquarters SGAS Q.607,Ed. Metrópolis, Mód. B Cobertura 2- AsaSul
Brasília, Brazil
Youth wing Juventude Tucana
Membership 1,371,874
Ideology Social liberalism[1]
Social democracy[3]
Third Way[5]
Political position Centre-left [6] to Centre [7][8][9][10][11][12]
National affiliation Change Brazil
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International (observer)
Regional affiliation Christian Democrat Organization of America (observer)
Colours          Blue & Yellow
TSE Identification Number 45
Seats in the Chamber of Deputies
51 / 513
Seats in the Senate
11 / 81
6 / 27
Seats in State Assemblies
123 / 1,059
Local Government
701 / 5,566

The Brazilian Social Democracy Party (Portuguese: Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB, also translated as "Party of Brazilian Social Democracy"[13] or "Brazilian Social Democratic Party") is a centrist[8][9][10][11][12][14] political party in Brazil. The third largest party in the National Congress, PSDB has been the main opposition against the administrations of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Its mascot is a blue and yellow colored toucan; party members are called tucanos for this reason. Famous tucanos include Mário Covas, Geraldo Alckmin, Tasso Jereissati, Aécio Neves, former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Franco Montoro, Aloysio Nunes, Yeda Crusius, and José Serra.

Born together as part of the social democratic opposition to the military dictatorship from the late 1970s through the 1980s, PSDB and the Workers' Party are since the mid-1990s the bitterest rivals in current Brazilian politics—both parties de facto prohibit any kind of coalition or official cooperation with each other in all government levels.


With the imminent collapse of the military dictatorship in the early 1980s, a group of left-wing intellectuals were mobilized to create a leftist party. Some of them attempted to work with the labour movement, led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but the group split over ideological grounds. The democratic socialists joined the labour movement and founded the Worker's Party, while the social democrats remained in the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and would later create the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).

PSDB was founded on June 25, 1988 by members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party linked to the European social democratic movement as an attempt to clarify their ideals. Its manifesto preached "democracy as a fundamental value" and "social justice as an aim to be reached". In its foundation, the party attempted to unite political groups as diverse as social democrats, social liberals, Christian democrats and democratic socialists.

This period when PSDB was created was a very significant moment in the history of Brazilian politics. On April 21, 1985, the Brazilian people witnessed the death of Tancredo Neves, the last president not elected directly by the people since the beginning of the dictatorial government. With the formation of new parties, including PSDB, a National Constitutional Assembly was created which drafted the current, democratic constitution, in 1988.

A high proportion of the first members of PSDB came from the so-called "historic PMDB". This was and still is a very large party with many internal conflicts. The founders of PSDB were dissatisfied with the results of the Constitutional Assembly, and decided to create a party to reflect the need for a national political renewal. As their manifesto states, the new party was created "away from the official benefits, but close to the pulsing of the streets" (taken from a speech by party leader Franco Montoro). Some of the founding members were José Serra, Mário Covas, André Franco Montoro, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Aécio Neves, and Geraldo Alckmin.

In a country where two referenda, held in 1963 and in 1993, have shown a very strong preference for a presidential system of government, as in most countries of the Americas, PSDB stands almost alone in the preference given in its manifesto to a parliamentarian system of government. However, after the electors rejected "parlamentarismo" in 1993, and even though PSDB leader Cardoso was elected President the next year, the party did nothing in the last years to further the cause of a parliamentarian system.

PSDB is one of the largest and most significant political parties in Brazil. Its official program states its policies as being social democratic and often associated with the Third Way movement, although the party is also regarded as being influenced by neoliberalism. The party's program states that it "reject[s] populism and authoritarianism, as well as both fundamentalist neoliberalism and obsolete national-statism".[15]

Despite its name, the PSDB is not a member of the Socialist International[16] which draws together social democratic parties worldwide (the Brazilian member of the Socialist International is the Democratic Labour Party (PDT)). Also, the party has not, and has never had, the links to trade union movements that usually characterize social democratic parties; it used to sponsor a Central Union, SDS (Social-Democracia Sindical), which has now merged, together with Central Autônoma dos Trabalhadores (CAT), and the much more important Central Geral dos Trabalhadores (CGT), into the União Geral dos Trabalhadores (UGT),[17] but its impact among the unions has always been quite unimpressive compared to even much smaller parties as the PDT or the PCdoB, or to the tucanos's own influence in society at large.

Recent times

A mere six years after its creation, PSDB was able to win the Presidency of the Republic. It grew faster than any other party in Brazilian history, with an astonishingly good performance in elections at all levels. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso enjoyed eight years (1994–2002) of political stability in his tenure as president.

Accordingly, its 1980 honorary president, a good summary of the PSDB's stated program is: 1) constant defense of democracy. 2) the state at a minimally needed size. 3) administrative decentralization. 4) sustainable economic growth with wealth distribution. 5) political reform to make stronger parties with electoral districts, accountable representatives as well as aiming to reduce and eliminate corruption.


Ranking of corruption

Based on data released by the Superior Electoral Court, the Movimento de Combate à Corrupção Eleitoral (English: Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption) released a balance on October 4, 2007, with the parties that include the largest number of parliamentarians quashed by electoral corruption since 2000. PSDB appeared in third place on the list, with 58 cases, behind only DEM and PMDB.[18]

According to analysis released on September 8, 2012 of 317 Brazilian politicians who were barred from running in elections by Ficha Limpa Supplementary Law (English: Clean Slate), PSDB is the party that has the largest number of barred candidates, with 56 party members.[19]

A Privataria Tucana

Main article: A Privataria Tucana

In 2011 a book written by journalist Amaury Ribeiro Jr., a former special reporter of weekly magazine ISTOÉ and daily newspaper O Globo, highlighted documents that show supposed irregularities in privatizations that occurred during the administration of the former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It contains about 140 pages of photocopied documents trying to demonstrate that president Cardoso's Minister of Planning and later Minister of Health, José Serra, received kickbacks from businessmen that participated in the Brazilian privatization process, helding companies in tax shelters and moving millions of dollars between 1993 and 2003.[20]


Although PSDB declares itself as a center party, some people in the left rejects this definition, especially after Fernando Henrique Cardoso embraced Third Way politics as President. According to many critics, the party is seen as "neoliberal" from its beginnings.[21] Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira, one of the founders of PSDB, left the party "for ideological reasons", claiming "that the party had taken a hard turn to the right."[22]

Political analyst Angelo Segrillo, in an article titled "The left-right confusion in the post-Berlin Wall world", says that "most analysts defined PSDB as center-left as of its foundation, after all, it was the Brazilian Social Democratic Party". As he notes, "this story changed after 1994, with the election of PSDB to the presidency". "A rhetoric of overcoming classical ideological division (…) was one of the justifications of the grand parliamentary alliance with center and right-wing parties (…) As such, after the 1994 presidential election, most analysts started defining PSDB as a center party along with PMDB".[23] In its 2009 report about Freedom in the World, Freedom House defined the opposition coalition (formed by PSDB, PPS and Democrats) as a "center-right coalition".[24] However, in the 2010 report of the same organization, PSDB was defined as a "center-left" party.[25]

Workers' Party campaign leader Marco Aurélio Garcia criticized declarations made by PSDB president Sérgio Guerra that PSDB is "the real left". He said that "PSDB is not a right wing party, it is the right wing's party".[26]

Political alignment

PSDB questions the use of what it considers "outdated political labels", such as "left" and "right". To quote a document drafted by Fernando Henrique Cardoso's office in 1990:

"If left means to be against the existing social order, and right in favor, then social-democracy is without doubt a left current. … A social democrat is before anything someone who has critical sense—who realizes the injustices of society and has no fear to oppose them, even at the risk of being taken as a subversive or a dreamer."

The party did not preach nationalization or privatization in general ("the consensus is that the state must not be too big or too small, but 'have the size and functions corresponding to the needs of the whole of society'"), although president Cardoso privatized many large public companies, such as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) and the national telecommunication system. Many political scientists in Brazil believed that the party, in its antagonism with the Worker's Party, made a move to the right in recent years to fulfill a void in the Brazilian political spectrum and to put a certain distance with the Worker's Party political views, that also turn more to the right (from the far-left or left to the center-left) in the ninetiees in order to be elected. One valid observation to foreigners readers, unaware of the status of Brazilian politics, is that, even thought the party is now more right than ever, it'd still be consider a leftist party in the European or American political spectre, since it defends an active governmental participation in the economy and big social programs like the Brazilian federal program Bolsa Família.

List of party presidents

Main Members


  1. "Exclusive: Brazil opposition leader will seek economic reforms". Reuters. November 1, 2010.
  2. 1 2
  3. 1 2 "Has Brazil voted for continuity?". BBC News. October 31, 2010.
  4. 1 2
  5. 1 2 Foley, Conor (February 4, 2009). "Looking for Lula's successor". The Guardian. London.
  6. 1 2 Philips, Tom (March 5, 2010). "Working class hero". The Guardian. London.
  7. Mainwaring, Scott; Meneguello, Rachel; Power, Timothy J. (2000), "Conservative Parties in Brazil", Conservative Parties, the Right, and Democracy in Latin America, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 178
  8. "Exclusive: Brazil opposition leader will seek economic reforms". Reuters. November 1, 2010.
  9. Goldman, Alberto (18 May 2001). "Declaração Programática do Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Documento preliminar para discussão interna)" (PDF). Instituto de Iberoamérica. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  12. "Desde 2000, 623 políticos foram cassados. DEM lidera ranking". O Globo. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  13. Talita Abrantes. "PSDB tem o maior número de barrados pelo Ficha Limpa". Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  14. Natalia Mazotte (2012-01-02). "Brazilian political party threatens to sue journalist over book". Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  15. A Construção da ideologia neoliberal do PSDB (PDF). ISBN 978-85-60979-08-0. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  16. Bresser Pereira, Luiz Carlos. "Adeus à política partidária".
  17. Segrillo, Angelo (2004). "A confusão esquerda-direita no mundo pós-Muro de Berlim" [The left-right confusion in the post-Berlin Wall world]. Dados (in Portuguese). 47: 615–632. doi:10.1590/S0011-52582004000300006. ISSN 0011-5258. A maioria dos analistas classificava o PSDB na centro-esquerda quando de sua criação (…) A estória torna-se outra após 1994, com a chegada do PSDB à presidência. Uma retórica de superação das divisões ideológicas clássicas (…) foi um dos fundamentos justificativos da grande aliança parlamentar com partidos de centro e direita (…). Tanto que, após a eleição presidencial de 1994, a maioria dos analistas passou a classificar o PSDB como partido de centro junto com o PMDB.
  18. Freedom House (July 16, 2009). "Freedom in the World 2009 – Brazil". UNHCR. In early 1994, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (…) forged a three-party, centrist coalition around his Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).
  19. "Map of Freedom in the World". Freedom House. Retrieved 14 June 2010.

External links

Preceded by
44 – PRP
Numbers of Brazilian Official Political Parties
45 – BSDP (PSDB)
Succeeded by
50 – SFP (PSOL)
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