Brazil is a federal republic divided into 26 states and the Federal District (Distrito Federal), the latter including the capital city, Brasília. Since 1934 the nation has had universal suffrage. In 1988 Brazil promulgated a new constitution—the eighth since the country’s independence in 1822—that abolished many traces of the military regime (1964–85), defined civil rights, and outlined the functions of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It restricted the president’s power to legislate, proscribed government censorship of the arts, condemned the use of torture, prohibited extradition for political crimes, set the minimum voting age at 16 years, and allowed the federal government to intervene in state and local affairs. The constitution has been amended several times since its promulgation, but some of the changes have been temporary, with specifically designated timespans.
Legislative power is exercised by the bicameral National Congress (Congresso Nacional), comprising the Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados) and the Federal Senate (Senado Federal). Congress meets every year in two sessions of four and a half months each. The constitution gives Congress the power to rule in matters involving the federal government, particularly those related to fiscal policies and to the administration of the union. Congress also ratifies international treaties negotiated by the executive, authorizes the president to declare war, and decides whether or not the federal government may intervene in the affairs of the states. If the president vetoes a congressional bill or any of its provisions, Congress has 30 days to overrule the veto by an absolute majority vote.
The Chamber of Deputies consists of representatives of the states elected every four years by direct universal suffrage. The number of deputies is in rough proportion to the population of each state, but no state can be represented in the chamber by more than 70 or by fewer than eight deputies. This system grants a disproportionate share of political power to the states of the Northeast and North and severely underrepresents the heavily populated state of São Paulo. The 81-seat Federal Senate is composed of three representatives from each state and the Federal District who serve eight-year terms. Senatorial elections are held every four years, alternating between one-third (27) and the remaining two-thirds (54) of the seats. Senators are directly elected by the residents of each state.
Executive power is exercised by the president, who is head of state and government, is directly elected to a four-year term (and is eligible for one reelection), and appoints a cabinet of various ministers of state and several other heads of ministerial-level departments. The executive has wide powers, particularly in economic and foreign policy, finances, and internal security. The president can submit bills to Congress and request legislative approval within 30 days; if Congress does not comply within this period, the bill is considered approved. The president can partly or totally veto any bill submitted by Congress in addition to issuing provisional measures that remain in effect for 30-day periods. The president is also commander in chief of the armed forces; in practice, however, civil-military relations in Brazil have never been taken for granted. "Brazil" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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