Democrats (Brazil)

President José Agripino Maia
Founded January 24, 1985 (PFL)
March 28, 2007 (Democratas)
Headquarters Senado Federal - Anexo I - 26º Andar, Sala 2602 - Brasília - DF
Youth wing Juventude Democratas
Membership 1,073,760[1]
Ideology Liberal conservatism[2]
Political position Right-wing[4]
National affiliation Brazil can do more
International affiliation CDI,
Regional affiliation ULAP,
Colors              Blue, Green, White
Slogan "The Force of New Ideas"
TSE Identification Number 25
Seats in the Chamber of Deputies
29 / 513
Seats in the Senate
4 / 81
1 / 27
Seats in State Assemblies
76 / 1,059
Local Government
278 / 5,566
City councillors
3,209 / 51,748

The Democrats (Portuguese: Democratas, DEM) is a political party in Brazil, which is considered the main party within the right-wing spectrum. It was founded in 1985 under the name of Liberal Front Party (Partido da Frente Liberal, PFL) from a dissidence of the defunct PDS, successor to the ARENA, the official party during the military dictatorship of 1964–1985. It changed to its current name in 2007. The original name reflected the party's support of free market policies,[5] rather than the identification with international liberal parties. Instead, the party affiliated itself to the international federations of Christian democratic (CDI) and conservative parties (IDU). The Democrats' identification number is 25 and its colors are green, blue, and white.


PFL (1985-2007)

On January 24, 1985, DEM's direct predecessor, the Liberal Front Party (Partido da Frente Liberal - PFL), was founded by a dissident faction of the Democratic Social Party (PDS), which had been founded in 1980 as the successor of the National Renewal Alliance (ARENA), the former ruling party during the time of military dictatorship (1965–79). At the time, Brazil was under the effervescence that put an end to the military regime. In the previous year, a series of rallies known as Diretas Já gathered thousands of peoples in the streets of major cities to demand the direct election of the next President, as envisaged in the Dante de Oliveira amendment, which was pending approval in the Congress. On January 10, 1984, PDS rejected supporting this proposition, but a pro-Diretas Já faction emerged within the party a few days later. On April 25, 1984, the Congress, besieged by Army officials, voted the amendment. It did not reach the required quorum for approval, due to the absence of 112 deputies from PDS.

After the attempts to have a direct election failed, discussions about the presidential succession turned to the National Congress, which would elect the President indirectly in the following year. The pro-Diretas Já faction of PDS formed the Liberal Front, and decided to support PMDB's candidate Tancredo Neves against PDS's Paulo Maluf, the official candidate of the military regime. With the support of Aureliano Chaves, Marco Maciel, Antônio Carlos Magalhães, and Jorge Bornhausen, among other major dissidents from PDS, the Liberal Front named José Sarney as Neves' running mate for the 1985 presidential election. On January 15, 1985, the Neves/Sarney presidential ticket got 480 of the 686 votes available in the Congress (70% of the total). Nine days later, on January 24, 1985, the Liberal Front officially disbanded from PDS and formed the Liberal Front Party (PFL). With the death of Tancredo Neves on April 21, 1985, Sarney took office as President. Due to the same electoral law that forbade coalitions, Sarney was forced to join PMDB, of which he is still a member today. PFL, however, was a major ally of his government. His daughter, Roseana, was a member of PFL until 2006, when she was expelled from the party for supporting Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In 1989, Aureliano Chaves was chosen as PFL's presidential candidate, but the weakness of his campaign made most leaders of the party to declare their support for National Reconstruction Party (PRN)'s candidate, Fernando Collor, himself a former member of ARENA, PDS, and PMDB. PFL's Senators, however, had masterminded the candidacy of businessman and television presenter Silvio Santos, a maneuver which had been hampered by the Supreme Electoral Court. An ally of Collor in the runoff election against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, PFL participated in his government, and, even after his impeachment, it participated in the coalition that supported Itamar Franco's government. From 1994 to 1998, PFL supported Fernando Henrique Cardoso and thus secured the post of vice-president with Marco Maciel. Prior to the 2002 election, an operation led by the Federal Police in Maranhão undermined the presidential candidacy of Roseana Sarney, leading to a rupture with the government.

Opposition (2002-2016)

Leaders at the March 27, 2007 convention, during which PFL was refounded as DEM.

In the legislative elections, on October 6, 2002, the party won 84 out of 513 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 14 out of 54 seats in the Senate. After this election, which saw the rise of Lula of the PT as President, PFL became an opposition party for the first time ever since the 1964 coup. The party reorganized its alliance with Cardoso's PSDB in order to form the official opposition in the National Congress.

In the following general elections, held on October 1, 2006, the party won 65 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 6 out of the 27 seats up for election in the Senate, making it the second largest party in the Senate. The party does not usually run presidential candidates, but does run gubernatorial candidates in several states. In the 2006 elections, the party lost several state governorships, but won the governorship of the Federal District. However, this governorship was later lost due to a corruption scandal in which Governor José Roberto Arruda was caught on tape receiving bribery from private companies.

In 2007, the party was refounded and adopted its current name.

In the 2010 elections, the party continued to suffer losses in the Parliament, losing 22 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 7 seats in the Senate. DEM was able to elect only two Senators that year (Demóstentes Torres from Goiás, and José Agripino Maia from Rio Grande do Norte), for a total of 6, falling from the second largest party in the Senate to the fourth. Its longest-serving member, former Vice President Maciel, which had been first elected to the National Congress in 1966, was not re-elected.[6] On the other hand, DEM won the governorships of the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Santa Catarina, expanding its presence in state administrations.

The party lost over half of its votes when comparing the 2006 and 2010 Senate elections. In 2006, it had 21.6 million votes for the upper house, while in 2010 it had just 10.2 million votes. The decline was less sharp in the Chamber of Deputies elections, as it had 10.1 million votes in 2006, and 7.3 million in 2010. The decrease in DEM's voting was attributed to the rapid growth of the PT and its allies in the Northeast. In 1986, the party had won 36% of the votes for the Chamber in the Northeast, while in 2006 this was reduced to 17%.[7]

As a result of the decline in DEM's popularity, the party has considered merging with another major party, such as the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) or the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB). A possible merge with PMDB, however, has been rejected by most of DEM's leaders due to the fact that it is a member of the Lulista alliance in the National Congress and in most local level administrations. In 2011, it suffered another decline in its membership when São Paulo mayor Kassab founded the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and took prominent DEM members such as Senator Kátia Abreu, Santa Catarina governor Raimundo Colombo, and former vice-presidential candidate Indio da Costa with him. PSD has 52 federal deputies and 2 Senators, most of them former DEM members.


The party is usually considered to be right-wing.[8] In 2006, the party's former president Jorge Bornhausen stated in an interview to Brazil's largest newsmagazine Veja, that the party should be considered centrist and socially liberal.[9] However, other party leaders have classified it as "internationally, closest to Christian democracy".

According to political scientist Jairo Nicolau, the name change was intended to crown a process of modernization inside the party.[10] "DEM was launched to be a modern right-wing party, with a new program, and aimed at the urban middle classes; a kind of Conservative Party of the UK", he says.[10] This, according to him, explains the departure of founding members and the rise of younger leaders.[10] For instance, Jorge Bornhausen, which had been a member of UDN, retired from the presidency of the party to give place to federal deputy Rodrigo Maia, son of César Maia.[7] The Santa Catarina section of the party was taken over by Bornhausen's own son, deputy Paulo Bornhausen.[7] In Bahia, ACM Neto took over the legacy of his grandfather, Antônio Carlos Magalhães.[7]

Internationally, the Democrats are affiliated with both the Christian democratic Centrist Democrat International[11] and the conservative International Democrat Union.[12] Its youth organization, Juventude Democratas, and the Rio Grande do Sul section, however, are associated with the Liberal Network for Latin America.

Electoral performance

Chamber Senate
Year Votes % of votes % change Seats % of seats Seats change Votes % of votes % change Seats % of seats1 Total seats2
1986 8,278,385 17.7 118 24.2 7 14.3
1990 5,026,474 12.4 -5.3 83 16.5 -35 8 25.8
1994 5,873,370 12.9 +0.5 89 17.3 +6 13,013,277 13.5 11 20.3
1998 11,525,100 17.3 +4.4 105 20.5 +16 7,047,702 11.4 -2.1 5 18.5
2002 11,706,253 13.4 -3.9 84 16.3 -21 28,408,415 18.5 +7.1 14 25.9 19
2006 10,182,308 10.9 -2.5 65 12.6 -19 21,653,812 25.7 +7.2 6 22.2 18
2010 7,301,171 7.6 -3.3 43 8.3 -22 10,225,883 6.0 -19.7 2 3.7 6
2014 4,080,757 4.2 -3.4 22 3.9 -21 3,515,426 4.3 -1.7 3 11.1 5
1^ Percentage of seats up for election that year.
2^ Total seats: seats up for election that year plus seats not up for election.
Sources: Georgetown University, Election Resources, Rio de Janeiro State University

Famous members


  2. Kirby, Peadar (2003), Introduction to Latin America: Twenty-First Century Challenges, Sage, p. 157
  3. Vallance, Monique M.; Crocitti, John J. (2012), "Democrats", Brazil Today, ABC-CLIO, p. 187
  4. "Liberal Front Party (PFL)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  5. (Portuguese) Oswald, Vivian. "Campeões de votos no passado, Marco Maciel, Tasso Jereissati e Arthur Virgílio não conseguem vaga". O Globo. October 4, 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "Breve história do DEM, da ditadura a Arruda passando por FHC". Vermelho. February 17, 2010.
  7. Moreira, Ardilhes and Oliveira, Maria Angélica de. "Total de eleitores filiados ao PT cresce 44% durante governo Lula". G1. February 20, 2010.
  8. Patury, Felipe and Carneiro, Marcelo. "Lula não se elege". Veja. January 11, 2006.
  9. 1 2 3 Nicolau, Nicolau. "O Declínio Inequívoco do PFL". Papo Político. August 13, 2010.
  10. Partidos Archivo, Centrist Democrat International, Retrieved on 10 November 2015.
  11. Member Parties, International Democrat International, Retrieved on 8 March 2012

External links

Preceded by
23 - SSP (PPS)
Numbers of Brazilian Official Political Parties
25 - Democrats
Succeeded by
26 - PNR (PAN) - defunct
27 - CSDP (PSDC)
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