Bertrand de Solere Blog

How is the Federative Republic of Brazil organized politically?

The political organization of Brazil is a federation closer to the French unitary state than to the federation of the United States of America, for example.

In 1988, with the end of the military dictatorship and the return to democracy, Brazilians adopted a new constitution called “Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil of 1988”.

Article 1 of this Constitution states that “the Federative Republic of Brazil, formed by the indissoluble union of the States and municipalities and the Federal District, constitutes a Democratic State of Law […]”.

Article 18 specifies that “the political and administrative organization of the Federative Republic of Brazil includes the Union, the Federal District and the Municipalities, all of which are autonomous, according to the provisions of this Constitution”.

It is clear from the terminology used that Brazil is presented as a federation of states. We are thus encouraged to compare the Brazilian system with the system of the United States of America, helping the vastness of the territory, while they are two very different systems, Brazil being ultimately much closer to the French unitary model.


If the United States was born from the will of the States to come together and form a federal government, Brazil followed the opposite path; it is the central government that has granted more independence to local authorities (states and municipalities).

At independence, Brazil was a monarchy (Empire) ruled by Dom Pedro II. Brazilian society being escravocrate at a high level, the Central Power had to be strong and authoritarian. It was only after the end of slavery (1888) and the monarchy that the Republic decided to decentralize powers.

This “granted” federation, centrifugal, is based on totally different bases from the North American centripetal federation, a direct product of the federated entities themselves.

Throughout the history of Brazil, since its independence, its administrative-political organization has oscillated between centralization, during more authoritarian moments (1930; 1964), and decentralization, during more republican moments, as since 1988. But this decentralization Brazilian system cannot be related to the North American federal system whose origin comes from the States themselves.


Thus, while in the United States of America each State has its own criminal law, civil law, social law, business law and others, Brazil only knows a criminal law, a civil law, a social law, than company law, fixed at the federal level and which apply throughout the territory of Brazil.

In addition, in Brazil, 70% of tax revenue is allocated to the Union (Central Authority).

Even if it is true that the central power in Brazil does not have a specific representative in each State of Brazil, to ensure compliance with the decisions of the central government, such as the prefects in each French department, beyond that, the States and Municipalities in Brazil are totally subject to federal laws, just as the regulations of French local authorities must respect the laws of the Republic.

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