Brazilians organize anti-corruption campaign, 2008-2009

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
All sources list the campaign as ongoing for 18 months until signatures were presented to Congress in September 2009. This would put the time period from March 2008-September 2009. I mark the end of the MCCE's campaign with Congressmen Antonio Carlos Biscaia decision to sponsor the bill on September 29.
March
2008
to
September
2009
Location and Goals
Country: 
Brazil
Location City/State/Province: 
Nationwide; Congress resides in Brasilia
Goals: 
End political corruption through legislation and hold political officials accountable through the passage of the "Ficha Limpa" bill in Congress.
 

Corruption is endemic to Brazilian politics, where convicted felons may run for office and elected officials are routinely caught accepting bribes in exchange for political favor. Brazil was ranked 73 out of 182 countries in the 2011 Corruption Perception Index. Although many politicians support anti-corruption measures, they are wary to sponsor an anti-corruption bill, especially after multiple reform bills failed to pass in the National Congress in recent years.

In 2008, an organization called the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption (MCCE), an umbrella group comprising over forty-three like-minded local NGOs and organizations, took advantage of a popular initiative clause, by which a bill can be popularly presented to congress if it is supported with signatures from at least one percent of the Brazilian population.

Judge Márlon Jacinto Reis, one of the founders of the MCCE and long time anti-corruption activist, devised the bill, known as Ficha Limpa or, “Clean Slate,” to be presented to congress. His essential participation in the campaign led people to affectionately refer to him as “Mr. Ficha Limpa.” Ficha Limpa was an amendment to the 1990 Complementary Law 64, known as the Law of Ineligibility. The new bill called to permanently ban anyone from running for political office who currently has corruption charges or allegations pending against them. It would also bar candidates who have been dishonorably expelled from professional organizations, notably lawyers kicked out of a bar association.

For eighteen months the MCCE collected signatures throughout the country. The MCCE organized and promoted on-the-ground signature campaigns, collecting the signatures alongside voters’ identity certificates, and training volunteers. In their online campaign the MCCE utilized Twitter, Facebook, social networking site Orkut, and the Brazilian chapter of Avaaz.org, an activist organization that proved essential in assisting the MCCE in mobilizing people online.

In September 2009, the MCCE forwarded between 1.3-1.7 million names to Congress, and 3 million more online. Congressman Antonio Carlos Biscaia, encouraged by popular support behind the initiative, sponsored the bill in Congress on September 29. After months of deliberations in congress, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the bill on June 4, 2010, to come into effect June 7, just in time for the municipal elections that October.

The official law approved in June, Complementary Law 135/2010 or the Ficha Limpa Law, stated that any politician convicted of a crime by a group of judges and who exhausted all appeals was ineligible to run for office for eight years – as opposed to the three-year limit under the law’s predecessor. The retroactive legislation applied not only to those facing conviction in the future, but also those with criminal records and those who have resigned while under suspicion in the current Congress. The Brazilian Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the law, but announced their decision to uphold it on February 16, 2012. That October, regional election courts barred 317 mayoral candidates in October’s municipal elections from running for office under Ficha Limpa.

Research Notes
Sources: 
“Cleaning Up: A Campaign Against Corruption.” The Economist. 08 July, 2010. http://www.economist.com/node/16542611

“Brazil: Social movements launch broad initiative for political reform.” Social Watch. 19 August, 2011. http://www.socialwatch.org/node/13550

Croix, Sarah de Sainte. “Brazil anti-corruption act upheld.” The Rio Times. 17 February, 2012. http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-politics/ficha-limpa-anti-corruption-act-upheld-brazil/

Elizondo, Gabriel. “Brazil‘s groundbreaking step to halt corruption.” Al-Jazeera English. 06 September, 2010. Web. http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/americas/brazils-groundbreaking-step-halt-corruption

Knebal, Patricia. “Anti-corruption efforts gain traction in Brazil.” Infosurhoy. 26 October, 2010. Web. http://infosurhoy.com/cocoon/saii/xhtml/en_GB/features/saii/features/main/2011/10/26/feature-01

Marinho, Leilane. “Brazil: ‘Mr. Clean Record’ has his eye on next elections.” Infosurhoy. 10 September, 2012. Web. http://infosurhoy.com/cocoon/saii/xhtml/en_GB/features/saii/features/main/2012/09/10/feature-02

Panth, Sabina. “The Ficha Limpa (Clean Record) Campaign.” External Affairs Operational Communication of the World Bank. 09 May, 2011. Web. http://www.romanialibera.ro/actualitate/eveniment/arafat-revine-asa-cum-a-plecat-dupa-o-discutie-cu-traian-Băsescu-250472.html

Additional Notes: 
MCCE’s success in bringing Ficha Limpa to congress prompted the organization to see the popular initiative clause as a viable avenue for promoting anti-corruption legislation. In 2011, they worked with another civil society umbrella organization, the Platform to Reform the Political System, in their project to reform the campaign system by establishing public financing for candidates and minimizing the influence corporate financiers have over politicians.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Susana Medeiros, 11/11/2012