Organizing majorities, aggregating preferences: the 1987-88 National Constituent Assembly in Brazil

According to the neo-institutionalist motto the norms governing the decision-making process will exert great influence upon the final result. This would also apply to the 1987-1988 National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in Brazil. If this was not the case, a group of unhappy constitution-makers would not have rebelled against the rules and proposed a reformulation of the Internal Standing Orders nearly a year after its commencement. To understand the importance of the institutional framework in political disputes and the final outcome produced by the NAC is the central question of this dissertation. Thus, the objective is to answer the following question: what are the effects of both the rules regulating the process of formation/convening of the NAC and its internal rules – changed during the process – on the final result? The adopted model of constitution-making (congressional and non-exclusive) and the work format (decentralized in thematic committees and subcommittees) were widely questioned and disputed by the consequences political actors were anticipating or projecting. Political actors are always aware that rules affect the results. The question that remains is whether they can anticipate correctly and, in this case, if it is possible to observe how they behave. In order to deepen the debate on strategic interactions in constitution-making processes, roll call votes that took place on the floor of the Constituent Assembly are analyzed to understand how collective actors organize preferences, assembling majorities in radicalized political disputes.

From Danilo Buscatto Medeiros.