This paper looks at the political consequences and the political origins of the Brazilian electoral system. This system has several unusual features that grant politicians nonpareil autonomy with respect to their parties. These features include a system of proportional representation that uses an open list and a mechanism known as the candidato nato, which allows politicians to get on the ticket despite the opposition of the party leadership. As a result, the electoral system reinforces the individualistic behavior of politicians and has contributed to undermining efforts to build more effective parties. Notwithstanding their frequent laments about the weakness of parties, Brazilian politicians have consistently opted for electoral systems that undermine parties. They have done so because they perceived measures that could strengthen parties as authoritarian, and also in response to their fears that executives would otherwise be able to control them ruthlessly. The extreme party weakness and individualistic patterns of representation that are reinforced by this electoral system have sustained an elitist polity.
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