Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori once called Brazil “the most anti-partisan country of the world.” That is particularly true today, as dissatisfaction with Brazilian political parties reaches record-setting levels with the electorate blaming corrupt politicians for the recession. But this rejection hasn’t stopped presidential hopefuls from engaging in the active courtship of a group called the centrão, or the “Big Center,” even if this front of mid-sized parties represents the very concept of the establishment.
In a presidential race where candidates are bending over backward to present themselves as outsiders, why does the “Big Center” matter so much?
As is often the case in Brazil’s political system, ideological labels are misleading. Despite what the name of the group might indicate, the “Big Center” is by no means made of moderate, middle-of-the-road parties. Basically, the front is a loose coalition of conservative forces, dating back to the Constitutional Assembly of 1987-1988.