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Catholic church and lawyers call for political reform

The National Conference of Bishops (CNBB) and the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) published Wednesday (Feb. 25) a Manifesto for Democracy in support of the debate on political reform.

The two organizations noted Brazil faces serious political and social challenges, and “the institutions of representative democracy, and especially the voting process, are ailed by persistent flaws and distortions, which are seriously detrimental to the representative system as a whole, to the legitimacy of elections, and to the credibility of elected officials in adequately representing popular sovereignty.

In their manifesto, CNBB and OAB called for an end to the funding of election campaigns through corporate donations, “which leads to major and recurring scandals that come as a blow to our nation.” They believe outlawing corporate contributions would mitigate the “objectionable influence of economic power” on the election process.

CNBB and OAB lead a group of 106 civil society organizations that form the Coalition for Democratic Political Reform and Election Integrity. The coalition is collecting signatures for a proposed citizens’ initiative for political reform. Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, president of CNBB, said so far 500,000 voters have signed their proposal.

“We will work actively to collect signatures during the Brotherhood Campaign [Campanha da Fraternidade, held annually by the Church during Lent] in order to achieve, as part of the results of this year’s campaign, the target of 1.5 million signatures required to submit the proposal to Congress in April,” the cardinal explained.

“By writing this manifesto, we are trying to reach out to the society at large through organizations that support the idea of a democratic political reform. We’re also bringing our manifesto to the attention of our representatives in Congress. We don’t know all the answers, but we do have some ideas to contribute that we’d like to see discussed,” Assis said.

OAB Chairman Marcus Vinicius Coêlho called for the approval of a political reform in Congress this year, as well as a change in the existing laws to turn the formation of slush funds into a felony and changing our current election system from proportional votes to another system. “We want to discuss political reform as an attempt to eliminate the causes of this serious misconduct problem that plagues our public sector. We want perpetrators to face criminal charges for keeping campaign slush funds. We want to change, once and for all, this situation where people vote for one candidate and another one gets elected as a result, to a system that lets all voters know exactly who they are helping to elect when they cast their vote,” Coêlho said.

The president of CNBB called on the population to actively monitor the voting of proposals on the topic. “We’re calling on the society to keep a close eye on this process as it is dealt with in Congress so that their much-needed reforms won’t get perverted. It’s in the hands of Congress to carry out the reform, but it’s up to the society to actively monitor the process,” Assis concluded.

Translated by Mayra Borges



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