Too Undisciplined to Legislate? Party Unity and Policy-making in Brazil

Sylvia Gaylord


Discipline and cohesiveness of political parties are essential for legislatures to engage in policy-making. Parties in Brazil have historically been considered ideologically weak and uninvolved in policy issues of national importance. Analyses of roll-call votes, however, have shown that parties can be disciplined government supporters. This paper tests the claim that Brazilian parties have also become programmatic actors in their own right. The paper uses statutory delegation content to test whether voting discipline translates into greater influence on the substance of legislation. The data analysis shows that party unity among parties of the government coalition does not affect statutory content. Opposition parties, by contrast, are more likely to reduce the executive’s discretion when they are more unified. Overall, the support for the hypothesis of programmatic parties is weak, given that executive authorship is the strongest determinant of statutory content.

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