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The New Face of Brazilian Democracy vs Technology

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil, promulgated in 1988 begins; "all power emanates from the people, who exercise it through their representatives." A governance model of representative democracy has been established by the constitution and statute, the effectiveness of which is achieved through universal suffrage.

The Constitution provides limited forms of direct participation by the people by way of plebiscite, referendum or popular initiative (art. 14-CF). However, the significant bureaucratic obstacles to such forms of direct participation have resulted in, today, such forms having become far removed from the everyday reality of Brazilian politics.

Over the years citizens appear to have become accustomed to participating in politics only through the electoral process. The responsibility of each voter being to choose a representative who, from that point onwards, is mandated to make decisions regarding policy in the federal bodies on their behalf. Thus, the role of the vast majority of Brazilians ends with the casting of their vote at the polls.

However, in recent years it appears that, in Brazil, technological development and the resulting growth of digital inclusion, notably through the popularity of social media, has allowed individuals to broaden their participation in the political life of the country, thus returning to them, power, influence that should have never relinquished given that the Constitution has always guaranteed their freedom of expression, of thought (section IV, art. 5 °-CF), including political thought, of course, within the limits of the law.

One might therefore consider that the somnolence of Brazilian people towards political affairs, apparent for many years, existed through a lack of tools, present today for example in social networks, which now provide opportunity to give scale to ideas and concerns, making it viable to share information between people with similar views that might live far from each other in what is a vast nation with many remote locations.

 

In fact the internet not only offers channels for the exchange of information and a possibility to mobilise society, which by the way caught politicians by surprise in recent months, but in fact also offers instruments to control and supervise the activities of the Three Powers, which have slowly forced a consolidation of electronic government, opening channels previously never accessible to the ordinary citizen. Pressure from the public led to legislation being passed to provide access to public information (Law 12.527/2011) which itself gave effect to subsection XXXIII of art. 5th-CF, that provides for the constitutional right to information. The legislation formalised that the state should guarantee efficient access to information through agile, objective measures that are transparent, clear and in language that is easily understandable. In addition, public authorities must use all means and instruments to meet their obligation to "disclose through official sites on the world wide web" (internet).

 

The aim of Complementary Law 131/2009 is to impose transparency in public finances, so that today, applying the two laws, one can find online, amongst other things, official information regarding public accounts, salaries and contracting. Thus, the technology not only enables easier access to this important information, but also allows Brazilians to form their own opinions about it, to criticise and to share it, with the opportunity to ally themselves ideologically with other people interested in the topic.

It is also worth mentioning that the traditional media seems to have lost its monopoly on communication, with a veritable insurgency of amateur journalism by the public, highlighted in recent street demonstrations that attracted a massive audience on the web. The approach of these non-professionals was clearly more combative, but contributed in a different way to democracy, the internet providing objective, real content with a wide range of narrative.

It should however be noted that although these demonstrations and disruption through this virtual democracy is necessary in democratic society, there is of course a limit to them, the criminal law provides that people may and will be held accountable for their actions. There has been a crackdown on the crimes of slander, libel or defamation (Articles 138-140 of the Penal Code), published on Internet, which still apply, with a concrete possibility of increased punishment when such practices are directed against the President, Foreign Secretary or public officials, in relation to the execution of their duties (Article 141 of the Criminal Code).

Equally, those that either incite or condone criminal acts (Articles 286 and 287- CP ) relating to damage, for example, aggravated when committed against public property, are also unacceptable and constitute criminal conduct and is punishable in through the same system as the socially repudiated suspects of corruption.

Thus, it is argued that in order that digital channels be utilised healthily in today´s democracy, that the process should play a fundamental role in informing and educating Brazilians who in turn will be able to more effectively exercise their rights and contribute to the growth of their nation.

Finally, it has long been said that ¨knowledge is power¨, it might be said that todays technology has helped the process of empowering, politically, the general public which gradually, with access to education and the ability to audit the government and then share through electronic tools has had the power "eminating from the people" which once slipped from their hands, restored, albeit subtly in a balanced way and absolutely in the best interest of the country.

 

Renato Opice Blum - Attorney, Economist and President of the IT Advisory Board of Fecomercio.

Published in te newspaper "Valor Econômico" http://www.valor.com.br/legislacao/3361314/democracia-e-popularizac...

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