Brazilian Social Democracy Party

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Brazilian Social Democracy Party
Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira
President Geraldo Alckmin
Founded 25 June 1988
Split from Brazilian Democratic Movement Party
Headquarters SGAS Q.607,Ed. Metrópolis, Mód. B Cobertura 2- AsaSul
Brasília, Brazil
Youth wing Juventude Tucana
Membership 1,461,364[1]
Ideology Third Way[2]
Internal factions:
Christian democracy[3]
Social democracy[4]
Social liberalism[5]
Political position Centre[6][7][8][9][10][11]
National affiliation Change Brazil
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International (observer)
Regional affiliation Christian Democrat Organization of America (observer)
Colours      Blue      Yellow
TSE Identification Number 45
Seats in the Chamber of Deputies
29 / 513
Seats in the Senate
8 / 81
8 / 27
Seats in State Assemblies
123 / 1,059
Local Government
793 / 5,566

The Brazilian Social Democracy Party (Portuguese: Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, PSDB), also known as the Brazilian Social Democratic Party or the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy,[12] is a centrist[7][8][9][10][11][13] political party in Brazil. As the third largest party in the National Congress, the PSDB has been the main opposition against the administrations of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Born together as part of the social democratic opposition to the military dictatorship from the late 1970s through the 1980s, the PSDB and the Workers' Party have since the mid-1990s been bitterest rivals in current Brazilian politics—both parties de facto prohibit any kind of coalition or official cooperation with each other at any government levels. Its mascot is a blue and yellow colored toucan, with party members being called tucanos for this reason. Famous tucanos include Mário Covas, Geraldo Alckmin, Tasso Jereissati, Aécio Neves, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Franco Montoro, Aloysio Nunes, Yeda Crusius and José Serra.


Presidential elections against the Workers' Party

With the imminent collapse of the military dictatorship in the early 1980s, a group of left-wing intellectuals were mobilized to create a leftist party. Some of them attempted to work with the labour movement led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but the group split over ideological grounds. A group of democratic socialists and Trotskyists joined the labour movement and founded the Worker's Party (PT) while the social democrats remained in the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and would later create the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. Founded on 25 June 1988 by members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) linked to the European social democratic movement as an attempt to clarify their ideals, its manifesto preached "democracy as a fundamental value" and "social justice as an aim to be reached". In its foundation, the party attempted to unite political groups as diverse as social democrats, social liberals, Christian democrats and democratic socialists. The period when the PSDB was created was a very significant moment in the history of Brazilian politics.

On 21 April 1985, the Brazilian people witnessed the death of Tancredo Neves, the last President not elected directly by the people since the beginning of the dictatorial government. With the formation of new parties, including the PSDB, a National Constitutional Assembly was created and drafted the current democratic constitution in 1988. A high proportion of the first members of the PSDB came from the so-called "historic PMDB", which was and still is a very large party with many internal conflicts. The founders of the PSDB were dissatisfied with the results of the National Constitutional Assembly and decided to create a party to reflect the need for a national political renewal. As their manifesto states, the new party was created "away from the official benefits, but close to the pulsing of the streets" (taken from a speech by party leader Franco Montoro). Some of the founding members were José Serra, Mário Covas, André Franco Montoro, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Aécio Neves and Geraldo Alckmin.

In a country where two constitutional referendum, held in 1963 and in 1993, have shown a very strong preference for a presidential system of government as in most countries of the Americas, the PSDB stands almost alone in the preference given in its manifesto to a parliamentarian system of government. However, after the electors rejected parlamentarism in 1993 and even though the PSDB leader Cardoso was elected President the next year, the party did nothing in the last years to further the cause of a parliamentarian system.[citation needed]

The PSDB is one of the largest and most significant political parties in Brazil. Its official program says its policies are social democratic and often associated with the Third Way movement, although the party is also seen as influenced by neoliberalism. The party's program states that it "reject[s] populism and authoritarianism, as well as both fundamentalist neoliberalism and obsolete national-statism".[14]

Despite its name, the PSDB is not a member of the Socialist International[15] which draws together social democratic parties worldwide (the Brazilian member of the Socialist International is the Democratic Labour Party, PDT). The party has not and has never had the links to trade union movements that usually characterize social democratic parties and it used to sponsor a central union, the Social-Democracia Sindical (SDS), which has now merged together with the Central Autônoma dos Trabalhadores (CAT) and the much more important Central Geral dos Trabalhadores (CGT) into the União Geral dos Trabalhadores (UGT),[16] but its impact among the unions has always been quite unimpressive compared to even much smaller parties as the PDT or the Communist Party of Brazil, or to the tucanos's own influence in society at large.

Recent times[edit]

A mere six years after its creation, the PSDB won the presidency. It grew faster than any other party in Brazilian history, with an astonishingly good performance in elections at all levels. President Cardoso enjoyed eight years (1994–2002) of political stability in his tenure as President. Accordingly, a good summary of the PSDB's stated program is the following:

  • Constant defense of democracy
  • The state at a minimally needed size
  • Administrative decentralization
  • Sustainable economic growth with wealth distribution
  • Political reform to make stronger parties with electoral districts accountable representatives as well as aiming to reduce and eliminate corruption


Ranking of corruption[edit]

Based on data released by the Superior Electoral Court, the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption released a balance on 4 October 2007 with the parties that include the largest number of parliamentarians quashed by electoral corruption since 2000. The PSDB appeared in third place on the list with 58 cases, behind only the Democrats and the PMDB.[17]

According to analysis released on 8 September 2012, of 317 Brazilian politicians who were barred from running in elections by the Clean Record Act the PSDB is the party that has the largest number of barred candidates with 56 party members.[18]

A Privataria Tucana[edit]

The 2011 book A Privataria Tucana written by journalist Amaury Ribeiro Jr., a former special reporter of weekly magazine ISTOÉ and daily newspaper O Globo, highlighted documents that show supposed irregularities in privatizations that occurred during the administration of the former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It contains about 140 pages of photocopied documents trying to demonstrate that President Cardoso's Minister of Planning and later Minister of Health José Serra received kickbacks from businessmen that participated in the Brazilian privatization process, held companies in tax shelters and moved millions of dollars between 1993 and 2003.[19]


Although the PSDB declares itself as a centrist party, some people in the left rejects this definition, especially after Fernando Henrique Cardoso embraced Third Way politics as President. According to many critics, the party is seen as "neoliberal" from its beginnings.[20] Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira, one of the founders of the PSDB, left the party "for ideological reasons", claiming "that the party had taken a hard turn to the right".[21]

In an article titled "The left-right confusion in the post-Berlin Wall world", political analyst Angelo Segrillo says that "most analysts defined PSDB as center-left as of its foundation, after all, it was the Brazilian Social Democratic Party". As he notes, "this story changed after 1994, with the election of PSDB to the presidency. [...] A rhetoric of overcoming classical ideological division [...] was one of the justifications of the grand parliamentary alliance with center and right-wing parties. [...] As such, after the 1994 presidential election, most analysts started defining PSDB as a center party along with PMDB".[22] In its 2009 report about Freedom in the World, Freedom House defined the opposition coalition (formed by PSDB, PPS and Democrats) as a "center-right coalition".[23] However, in the 2010 report of the same organization PSDB was defined as a "center-left" party.[24]

Workers' Party campaign leader Marco Aurélio Garcia criticized declarations made by PSDB president Sérgio Guerra that PSDB is "the real left". He said that "PSDB is not a right wing party, it is the right wing's party".[25]

Political alignment[edit]

The PSDB questions the use of what it considers "outdated political labels" such as "left" and "right". To quote a document drafted by Fernando Henrique Cardoso's office in 1990: "If left means to be against the existing social order, and right in favor, then social-democracy is without doubt a left current. [...] A social democrat is before anything someone who has critical sense—who realizes the injustices of society and has no fear to oppose them, even at the risk of being taken as a subversive or a dreamer".

The party did not preach nationalisation or privatisation in general ("the consensus is that the state must not be too big or too small, but 'have the size and functions corresponding to the needs of the whole of society'"), although President Cardoso privatized many large public companies, such as Companhia Vale do Rio Doce and the national telecommunication system. Many political scientists in Brazil believed that the party in its antagonism with the PT made a move to the right in recent years to fulfill a void in the Brazilian political spectrum and to put a certain distance between it and the PT political views, which also moved more to the right (from the far-left or left to the centre-left) in the 1990s in order to be elected. One valid observation to foreign readers, unaware of the status of Brazilian politics, is that even though the party is now further right than ever, it would still be considered a leftist party in the European or American political spectrum since it defends an active governmental participation in the economy and big social programs like the Brazilian federal program Bolsa Família.

Voter base[edit]

The main electoral base of the party is the State of São Paulo. The party triumphed in all but three major elections to executive chairs in new republic in the state. The party also has a stronghold in other regions which reject the PT, like the Espirito Santo, southern and mid-western states. Unlike the PT, the party have less rejection in areas which often votes the PT in national elections, like the North and Northeastern regions and Minas Gerais. Many leaders of the party comes from these regions, like Tasso Jereisatti, Aécio Neves, Teotonio Vilela Filho, Cassio Cunha Lima, Sergio Guerra and Simão Jatene. However, the party has not succeeded in transform it into results in presidential elections, partly because of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's charisma and partly because of internal infighting.

Most of party rejection come from the State of Rio de Janeiro, where the protagonism of the party in the Brazilian centre and centre-right is often lost by the PMDB and parties with less national representation, like the Progressistas, the Party of the Republic, the Brazilian Republican Party, the Democrats and the Social Christian Party. In 1994, the party elected governor, senator and triumphed in Rio de Janeiro in a presidential election in all history of the party in a single time with Marcello Alencar, Artur da Távola and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whose popularity and Plano Real boosted the party. The same phenomena of rejection also happens with the PT in Rio de Janeiro. However, the PT managed better the situation and gets the presidential votes in Rio de Janeiro.

Despite being considered a centre-left party by their own members, media and by the Brazilian right, the PSDB has little or no appeal to the majority of Brazilian left. The majority of support and bases of tucanos comes from conservatives and liberal sectors, like militant Christians, professionals, the middle and upper middle class, farmers, landowners and business owners. The reasons for it come from this support came from the more softcore and far-less populist rhetoric and ideology from the party compared with the PT, the major economic reforms which the party led in the 1990s and the major influence of the Democrats in the party.

This supports is not seen with good eyes inside the "old guard" of the party. Many tucanos often publicly express their discomfort with the party. Even Cardoso, the main member of the party's history, constantly goes on criticism of figures such as Colonel Telhada, a former police officer who has elected a deputy in São Paulo with proposals such as reducing the age of defense of infancy, harsher penalties for criminals and appealing to the evangelical electorate, of which he is a member; and João Dória Junior, the new major of São Paulo who is often accused of populism, aggressive self-promotion, extreme free-market ideology and antipetism. These difference between the voters, base and the elite and old members is seen as an important factor to the often internal rifts between tucanos

In 2017, a group of new, young federal representatives, nicknamed "black heads" in reference to their youth, contrasting with a visible gray or bald head of older and progressive members, began to gain prominence in the party. This wing, made up of members in their 30s or less, shows a strong opposition to the continued support of the party to government of President Michel Temer and pro-free market proposals far more assertive than the old party members such as José Serra and Aloysio Nunes. Black heads now occupies important positions inside the party and with overtly support of the base and social movements like the Free Brazil Movement have conditions to push the party more to the right-wing of the Brazilian political spectrum

In the 2018 general election, the party suffered the greatest defeat in the history as Geraldo Alckmin got only the 4th position in the presidential election with less than 5% of votes and the party fell to the 10th in number of representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, with less representatives than the Democratas. The reasons for it was the corruptions scandals of Aécio Neves, the support to the impopular government of Michel Temer by the main leaderships of the party, lack of charisma and wrong strategies of Alckmin in presidential campaign, which choose to attack Jair Bolsonaro (the main candidate of the right) by a leftist viewpoint instead of attacking the PT, a continous domain of old more leftists leaders over the party instead of new and more liberal members with more connection with voter base and the concorrence of Bolsonaro and his party Social Liberal Party smashed the voter base of the party. However, the PSDB went to runoff in three of the four biggests Brazilian states, namely São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul, all of them with more liberal, pro-free market and centre-right views than Alckmin.


List of party presidents[edit]

Main members[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Presidential elections[edit]

Year Candidate First round Second round
Votes Vote % Votes Vote %
1989 Mário Covas 7,786,939 11.5% (4th)
1994 Fernando Henrique Cardoso 34,362,726 54.3 (1st)
1998 Fernando Henrique Cardoso 35,922,692 53.1 (1st)
2002 José Serra 19,694,843 23.2 (2nd) 33,356,860 38.7 (2nd)
2006 Geraldo Alckmin 39,968,369 41.6 (2nd) 37,543,178 39.2 (2nd)
2010 José Serra 33,132,283 32.6 (2nd) 43,711,388 44.0 (2nd)
2014 Aécio Neves 34,897,211 33.6 (2nd) 51,041,155 48.4 (2nd)
2018 Geraldo Alckmin 5,096,277 4.8 (4th)

Parliamentary elections[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Year Votes % votes +/– No. of
overall seats won
1990 3,515,809 8.7 (6th) New
37 / 502
1994 6,350,941 13.9 (2nd) Increase 5.2
62 / 513
Increase 25
1998 11,684,900 17.5 (1sr) Increase 3.6
99 / 513
Increase 37
2002 12,534,774 14.3 (2nd) Decrease 3.2
71 / 513
Decrease 28
2006 12,691,043 13.6 (3rd) Decrease 0.7
62 / 513
Decrease 6
2010 11,477,380 11.9 (3rd) Decrease 1.7
53 / 513
Decrease 12
2014 11,073,361 13.9 (2nd) Decrease 0.5
54 / 513
Decrease 1
2018 5,905,541 6.0 (3rd) Decrease 7.9
29 / 513
Decrease 25


  1. ^ "Estatísticas do eleitorado – Eleitores filiados".
  2. ^ "Artigo: Por uma Social Democracia contemporânea".
  3. ^ "Programa" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b "O PSDB é Social Democrata?".
  5. ^ "Estatuto" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Exclusive: Brazil opposition leader will seek economic reforms". Reuters. 1 November 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Page not found".
  8. ^ a b "Has Brazil voted for continuity?". BBC News. 31 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Freedom in the World 2010".
  10. ^ a b Foley, Conor (4 February 2009). "Looking for Lula's successor". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ a b Philips, Tom (5 March 2010). "Working class hero". The Guardian. London.
  12. ^ Mainwaring, Scott; Meneguello, Rachel; Power, Timothy J. (2000), "Conservative Parties in Brazil", Conservative Parties, the Right, and Democracy in Latin America, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 178.
  13. ^ "Exclusive: Brazil opposition leader will seek economic reforms". Reuters. 1 November 2010.
  14. ^ Goldman, Alberto (18 May 2001). "Declaração Programática do Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Documento preliminar para discussão interna)" (PDF). Instituto de Iberoamérica. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  15. ^ "404 - File or directory not found".
  16. ^ "União Geral dos Trabalhadores".
  17. ^ "Desde 2000, 623 políticos foram cassados. DEM lidera ranking". O Globo. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  18. ^ Talita Abrantes. "PSDB tem o maior número de barrados pelo Ficha Limpa". Exame. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  19. ^ Natalia Mazotte (2 January 2012). "Brazilian political party threatens to sue journalist over book". Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  20. ^ A Construção da ideologia neoliberal do PSDB (pdf). ISBN 978-85-60979-08-0. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  21. ^ Bresser Pereira, Luiz Carlos. "Adeus à política partidária".
  22. ^ Segrillo, Angelo (2004). "A confusão esquerda-direita no mundo pós-Muro de Berlim" [The left-right confusion in the post-Berlin Wall world]. Dados (in Portuguese). 47: 615–632. doi:10.1590/S0011-52582004000300006. ISSN 0011-5258. A maioria dos analistas classificava o PSDB na centro-esquerda quando de sua criação. [...] A estória torna-se outra após 1994, com a chegada do PSDB à presidência. Uma retórica de superação das divisões ideológicas clássicas [...] foi um dos fundamentos justificativos da grande aliança parlamentar com partidos de centro e direita [...]. Tanto que, após a eleição presidencial de 1994, a maioria dos analistas passou a classificar o PSDB como partido de centro junto com o PMDB.
  23. ^ Freedom House (16 July 2009). "Freedom in the World 2009 – Brazil". UNHCR. In early 1994, Fernando Henrique Cardoso [...] forged a three-party, centrist coalition around his Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).
  24. ^ "Map of Freedom in the World". Freedom House. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  25. ^ "Garcia: 'PSDB não é partido de direita, é da direita'".

External links[edit]

Preceded by
44 – PRP
Numbers of Brazilian Official Political Parties
45 – BSDP (PSDB)
Succeeded by
50 – SOLP (PSOL)