The Spread of Participatory Democracy in Brazil: From Radical Democracy to Participatory Good Government

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2005


Participatory forms of decision-making proliferated in Brazil in the two decades since the return to democratic rule in 1985. The most well-known institution, Participatory Budgeting (PB), was adopted by municipal governments as a means to clean up government spending, to encourage active participation by citizens in public life and to re-direct resources to low-income neighborhoods. By 2004 there were 170 active PB programs, up from the original 13 in 1989. Overall, at least 250 municipalities had experimented with PB between 1989 and 2004. The spread of PB was spurred by several overlapping but distinct processes including the electoral successes of leftist political parties, the positive publicity surrounding PB as a result of several major prizes being awarded to municipal governments that adopted PB, the expansion of civil society networks and the willingness of centrist politicians to adopt policies that had been pioneered by leftist political parties.

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