In any democracy, choosing members of Congress is always crucial to determine the possibilities of the next administration. However, in some presidential systems, it is common for congressional elections to take the back seat to the presidential race. In the case of Brazil, the contrast between the political debate for legislative races and those for the executive branch (president and governor) are striking.
While we often hear voters and pundits talking about runoff stage possibilities and how “pragmatic” voters might appear in the first round (voting to prevent a candidate they don’t like from reaching the second round, rather than casting a ballot for someone they do like – but who has little chances of winning), we barely talk about who is running for Congress.
A pivotal point to stimulate this discussion is understanding how Brazilian voters choose their members of Congress – and what are the effects of their criteria on how well our presidential system works. Research from the survey A Cara da Democracia no Brasil (“The face of democracy in Brazil”), carried out by the Democracy and Communication democratization Institute, helps us shed light on this issue.