Structure of Government

Brazil Table of Contents

Brazil is a presidential and federative republic with considerable decentralized federalism. It is composed of twenty-six states and the Federal District (Brasília). In 1996 the states were subdivided into 5,581 municipalities (see fig. 1). The system is built on a directly elected president with a national constituency and a Congress elected by very parochial regional interests. Although the 1988 constitution reestablished many of the prerogatives of the bicameral Congress, the president retains considerable "imperial" powers. The federal judiciary enjoys considerable independence and autonomy. Under a system of checks and balances similar to the United States system, the three branches of government operate in harmony and with mutual respect. However, on rare occasions, one of the branches may challenge or reject the interference of the others.

Since the end of military rule in 1985, unionization, collective bargaining, and frequent strikes have become commonplace among federal employees in all three branches. The 1988 constitution grants job stability to all federal employees with more than five years of service, including those who had been hired without public examination. All new hiring must be by civil service examinations, and job stability comes after two years of probation. Mandatory retirement for all public servants, except for those elected to political office, is at age seventy.

In January 1995, the government employed (excluding state enterprises) 650,000 civilian (executive, 586,000; judicial 50,000; and legislative, 14,000) and 310,000 military personnel, totaling 960,000. A total of 723,000 were retired. State enterprises counted another 700,000 active employees.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress