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Brazil, Government

universal suffrage, Chamber of Deputies, legislative power, state governors, distinct elements

Brazil has been a republic since 1889, but democratic government was suspended during the dictatorship of Getulio Vargas from 1937 to 1945 and during military rule under a series of presidents from 1964 until 1985. Since its founding the republic has functioned under five constitutions; the current constitution became effective in 1988. It created a republic with 26 federated states and one federal district. This constitution gave considerable powers to the legislative branch, the National Congress, to counter those of the president. It also shifted substantial responsibility and funding from the national government to the states and municipalities, which now have considerable autonomy over their internal affairs. It also provides for equality for all citizens under the law and universal suffrage.

Brazilís government has three distinct elements. A president exercises executive power; a congress, consisting of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, controls legislative power; and the Supreme Federal Tribunal heads the judicial branch of government. In the federal capital of Brasilia these powers are expressed symbolically by the placement of the Presidentís Executive Office, the Congress, and the Supreme Court on three sides of the Square of Three Powers.

All citizens 16 years of age or older are eligible to vote by secret ballot in elections for president, congress, state governors, and state legislatures. Voting is compulsory for literate persons from 18 to 70 years of age, and optional for those who are illiterate, over 70 years of age, or aged 16 or 17.

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