What is Considered Contemporary?
Contemporary history in Brazil is considered to be from 1985 until present day. This is because of the end of the military rule that had controlled the country from 1964 until 1985 and the return of civilian government. In January 1985, the shift towards democracy reached its climax when Tancredo Neves of the PMDB party (the party that had always opposed the military regime) was elected.
He was the first civilian president since 1964. Neves’ election victory over general Figueiredo, (the last of the Presidents picked by the military) was considered the start of a New Republic (Nova República). This term is the opposite of the term República Velha (or Old Republic). Lasting from 1880 until 1930, República Velha was the name of the first period of the Brazilian Republic.
The First Phase of Democracy
President Tancredo Neves could not attend his inauguration in 1985 because he fell ill the night before. His running mate, José Sarney, was inaugurated as vice president and served in Tancredo’s position as acting president until Tancredo died. Tancredo was never able to take the oath of office. Due to the unusual events of this situation, the first phase of the Brazilian New Republic was from the inauguration of José Sarney in 1985 until the inauguration of Fernando Collor in 1990. It can still be considered a transitional period because, while the 1967-1969 constitution still remained in force, the executive still had great powers. The president was also able to legislate with decree-laws.
A New Constitution
In 1986, the government ruled by Sarney fulfilled Tancredo’s promise of passing in Congress a Constitutional Amendment to the Constitution received from the military period. This started elections for a National Constituent Assembly to plan and adopt a new Constitution for Brazil. The Constituent Assembly began deliberations in February 1987 and concluded its work on 5 October 1988.
In 1988, Brazil completed the process of the restoration of democracy by adopting its current Constitution. The new Constitution replaced the dictatorial legislation that was still in place from the when the military was in control.
In 1989, elections for president by direct popular ballot under the new constitution were held. This was the first time this happened since military rule began in 1964. Fernando Collor was inaugurated on 15 March 1990. The last step in the long process of democratization took place with the inauguration of Collor (the first president elected under the 1988 constitution).
Since that time, there have been five presidential terms. This has occurred without any damage to the constitutional order. Collor was impeached on charges of corruption in 1992 and resigned the presidency. Franco, his vice president, succeeded him. The second and third terms corresponded to the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Administration. In the fourth and fifth presidential terms, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva served as President. In 2011, the sixth presidential term following the completion of the transition to democracy started with Dilma Rousseff (who still serves as President of Brazil).