Brazil pushes for referendum on political reforms

Brasilia, July 3 (IANS/EFE) The administration of President Dilma Rousseff Tuesday formally asked Brazil's Congress to convene a referendum on a wide-ranging political overhaul.

Rousseff, who proposed the plebiscite in response to protests that have rocked Brazil for nearly a month, wants voters to have input on how politics operates in the giant South American nation.

The request for a referendum was delivered to Congress by Vice President Michel Temer and Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo, who stressed that lawmakers will have the final word on holding the plebiscite and the content of proposals put before the voters.

Rousseff's government would like to see the public consulted on whether to keep the current campaign finance system - involving both public and private funding - or switch to a purely private or purely public mechanism.

The president also proposes asking voters about the proportional representation regime, which distributes seats in Congress based on the total number votes received by the respective parties.

Another question Rousseff wants posed concerns the practice of legislators' casting secret votes on bills before Congress.

The complaints of the hundreds of thousands who have turned out for protests in Brazil's major cities include pervasive corruption and a lack of transparency in politics.

Rousseff hopes to see a referendum take place as soon as possible and for new rules to be in place before the October 2014 presidential and legislative elections - a very ambitious timetable.

The nationwide wave of protests was spurred by an increase in public transit fares in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but the list of grievances quickly expanded to inadequate education and healthcare, politicians' malfeasance and the huge sums Brazil is spending to host events such as the just-ended Confederations Cup soccer tournament and the 2014 World Cup.

--IANS/EFE

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