Parliamentary amendments unbalance democracy – 11/09/2021 – Hélio Schwartsman

Parliamentary amendments do not enjoy the best of reputations. There are historical reasons for this. At least two major corruption scandals have erupted around them, that of the Budget dwarves, which surfaced in 1993, and that of the leeches mafia, of 2006. It would be rash, however, to conclude that all amendments are spurious. I would even dare say that most are not.

Much of the country’s infrastructure expansion and maintenance works are carried out through this instrument. It is even possible to say that without them, public hospitals would stop, since renovations and the purchase of equipment are largely dependent on budget funds determined not only by federal congressmen but also by state deputies and councilors. The amendment scheme appears in all spheres of the Legislative. And it’s not just in Brazil. Similar mechanisms exist in other countries, some with better political habits than ours.

Of course, there are requirements to be met in order for the amendments to be considered legitimate. Transparency is one of them. That alone would be enough to put an end to the so-called rapporteur’s amendments, for which we do not really know where they came from or where they are going. The principle of advertising has an intrinsic as well as an instrumental value. Precisely because it’s not very difficult to set up overbilling schemes, these amendments need to be open to everyone’s scrutiny.

Even if everything was always done as ordered, I keep one foot behind in relation to amendments, individual, collective and rapporteurship. My point is that they give whoever is already a parliamentarian a very big electoral advantage over potential challengers. This effect is more or less inevitable in the Executive, but there is no need to transfer it to the Legislature as well.

In the minimalist conception of democracy that I advocate, we must celebrate whenever a candidate for any office is not re-elected.

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