By Felicia Bryson, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Less than a week ago Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) decided to give the go ahead regarding the decision made by the Supreme Court to accept a law that intensifies the criteria for electoral disqualification, not however, affecting last year’s general election.

The minister of the Supreme Court (STF) and president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Ricardo Lewandowski
The president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Ricardo Lewandowski, Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

The Clean Record Act (Ficha Limpa), which was issued in June 2010, had been an incentive to curb corruption by disqualifying politicians who had a record of misconduct, thus not allowing them to be elected.

However, the postponement of the law has been seen by many as a let down on behalf of the Brazilian government, although according to Article 16 of the Constitution, one can not adopt new laws less than one year before an election. As the Clean Record Act was only brought into existence four months prior to the 2010 elections, it was excluded from coming into effect.

Although this decision has come as a disappointment to much of the Brazilian public, the director of the Movement for Combating Electoral Corruption (MCCE), Carlos Moura, says it is not all bad. “On the other hand, until now the Supreme Court has not touched the constitutionality of the law, which is a cause for celebration for us”, he explained.

In the months following the general election there had been a lot of confusion as to when, and then if, the Clean Record Act would be enforced. Taking this into regard, the President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Minister Ricardo Lewandowski said on Thursday that he believed the law has at least served as a warning to politicians with questionable pasts.

Ministro Luiz Fux speaks about the Supremo Tribunal Federal
Ministro Luiz Fux, photo provided by Superior Tribunal de Justiça STJ.

“The population could discuss this issue, examine the background of candidates. Many candidates who were bad examples were previously barred by the parties themselves and some were even tried, on behalf of law enforcement.”, Lewandowski said.

The Minister of Supreme Federal Court, Luiz Fux, recently appointed by President Rousseff, who had voted against the implementation of the Clean Record Act in 2010 has been condemned by Ophir Cavalcante, the president of The Order of Attorneys of Brazil (OAB), an organization of lawyers, which is responsible for the regulation of Brazil’s legal profession.

Cavalcante echoed the perception that the TSE’s decision had deeply frustrated Brazilian society. According to him the law was based on morality and ethics, which would ultimately help to bring an end to politicians mocking society and the justice system; if not now, then in time for the 2012 elections.

Brazilians seem used to corruption scandals involving their politicians. The vote-buying scandal in 2005, which nearly destroyed President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration, involved ministers from his party, the PT (Worker’s Party), who were fired as a result. However, all three of them managed to bounce back with Rousseff’s inauguration as president in January 2011.


  1. The outcry against the 6-5 decision upholding the Clean Sheet Act, but delaying its application until 12 months after enactment, as a specific provision in the Constitution requires, is clearly misguided.
    The most important issue, rather, is why it is necessary to enact such a law, which is clearly designed to protect citizens from themselves. We should be asking, why is it that Brazilians vote for candidates whom they know full well have been convicted of crimes and misdemeanors?
    And, in the end, if Brazilian voters go to the polls and cast more votes for “unclean” candidates than for “clean” candidates, on what grounds do we deny the victorious candidates their office?


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