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Changing towards direct democracy, a comparison of historical process between Brazil and Bolivia

Open Panel

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to bring out and compare the political and historical processes of Bolivia and Brazil that lead to the inclusion of direct democracy mechanisms in their law-making system. The inclusion of direct democracy mechanisms generally involve deep changes in one country’s Constitution or law-making system, we can roughly define the origin of these political changes in two types, horizontal: when the pressure of grass-roots movements is the key factor for the appearance of direct democracy mechanisms in the political system, Swiss and Bolivia are regularly referred as the example for this type of process. And vertical, or top-down, when a political leader promotes by him/herself the inclusion of those mechanisms, Uruguay and Venezuela are the main examples for this type of change. Both Brazil and Bolivia had the social movements as important actors in the struggle for inclusion of direct democracy mechanisms, though in different frames of time. In Brazil the social pressure started in 1986 in the constitutional making period, but the social movements failed to include better participatory mechanisms in the Constitution. On the other hand, Bolivia had a series of political demonstration, strikes and riots over the nationalization of their natural resources in the late 1990s and early 2000 which resulted in the inclusion of better participatory mechanisms on federal level, and a new Constitution, in 2006, that confirmed the inclusion of those mechanisms. By comparing both cases, we might be able to study what are the social or political factors that are relevant for the inclusion of effective direct democracy mechanisms in the law-making system and also discuss what might be the effects of those mechanisms on the political system of the new Representative Democracies such as Brazil, Bolivia and other Latin-American nations.