Constitutional Law and Political Science

Governabilidade, Sistema Político e Fragmentação/Desestruturação do Poder Político e Partidário

External Researchers:
Gilmar Ferreira Mendes (Universidade de São Paulo); José Roberto Afonso; João Carlos Espada (Universidade Católica Portuguesa); Catarina Santos Botelho (UC Porto); Prof. Doutor Elival da Silva Ramos; José Levi do Amaral Júnior; Carlos Horbach; Paulo Adib Casseb; Sergio Victor; Lucio Pegoraro; Ginevra Cerrina Feroni; Giuffré; Sofia Ranchordas; Ricardo Campos
Project Status:


The aim is to address a legal-political theme that seems insufficiently developed, one might say, since the democratic form of self-government has acquired such acceptance and predominance in the world.
Therefore, the theory of democracy has been focusing on aspects of what, following Sartori, can be called the “horizontal dimension of politics”, that is, electoral democracy, participatory democracy, consensual democracy or the diffusion of democracy.
It is therefore necessary to recover the idea that the democratic regime also involves a system of governance, which must be, as such, analyzed, characterized and understood, in light of its current external and internal challenges.
This effort requires the adoption of a markedly interdisciplinary, comparative and contextual method, which is not limited, however, to the study of political behaviour, nor is it captured by an artificial scientism that will identify new laws for the relationship between systems. It is also a method guided by and by Constitutional Law.


This project aims to pursue a research agenda around the following themes and work objectives:
1) What should be understood by the governability of representative democracy? How to identify and characterise the foundations of the governability of democratic regimes in Europe, the United States and Brazil in recent decades? Is there today a crisis of ungovernability in contemporary democracies as a result of the decline of those foundations, confirming Sartori's observation that «less power for the rulers» did not result in «more power for the governed»?
2) How to understand the current decline in political representation? What are the causes of the current erosion of the representative device? Is this an overload of the political system due to an escalation of requests and expectations that it can no longer satisfy or represent (government overload)? Is the problem of the crisis of representation in the greater heterogeneity of interests resulting from a growing social pluralism, making it possible to question whether representative democracy is, after all, compatible with certain forms of pluralism?
3) Governability, wrote Ralf Dahrendorf in a comment to the report on the governability of democracies that we have been citing, «supposedly refers to the capacity of governments to give direction to the economies, societies and political communities in which they govern, doing so with effectiveness ». How can the effectiveness of governments in responding effectively to social problems be restored? Does the problem lie in the proliferation of negative, blocking or veto powers?
4) Could the crisis of representative democracy or the dysfunctions it is experiencing at the present time be the result of a crisis in the structuring of the party system? Can phenomena of disruption in the party system have repercussions on the architecture of the political system and the governability of the democratic State? And, in the face of the present populist phenomenon and the dehydration of “mainstream” parties, are there remedies to deal with the disruption of the party system and to ensure the governance stability of the political systems in Europe and Brazil? In short, the relationship between the electoral system, party system, governability and political system needs to be revisited in a time of clashes between sovereignism and globalism, party disruption, emergence of populist parties and forms of inorganic anti-systemic contestation.


The project has researchers from three continents, allowing an open dialogue between stakeholders and even concrete actors from different democracies, ensuring that the conclusions will be comprehensive and representative.
It should also be noted that the project, as outlined, crossing political science, comparative politics, the theory of democracy, the theory of the State and Constitutional Law, comprises different levels of approach: from an analytical-conceptual plane in around the very category of governability in democratic systems, up to the inventory of organisational solutions capable of reversing or stopping the current destructuring of government and party systems.
This double dimension, simultaneously conceptual/reflective and presenting solutions to problems, signals that this is also a research project from academia to the “outside”, to the political community.
Today it can be said that threats to the governability of contemporary democratic regimes have intensified and diversified even further. Some of these threats and trends include:
- The decline in the effectiveness and effectiveness of public power, caused by the deterritorialisation of power, the technocratisation of political decision-making and the emergence of transnational structures of private economic regulation, which, as a whole, weaken government power.
- The decline of the institutions of parliamentary democracy, resulting not only from new or returning calls for charismatic legitimation (e.g. the presidentialisation of politics), or a type of “permanent democracy” through more frequent referendum consultations, but also from media logics that they accentuate the personalisation, distrust and dramatisation of politics (e.g. social networks).
- The decline of the civic culture that anchored the institutions of liberal democracy, instilling in citizens a feeling of powerlessness, paralysis and distrust and weakening the structures of political socialisation.
- The decline of political representation, partly created by the growth of a “democracy of audiences” to the detriment of the “democracy of notables” in debate in parliaments; on the other hand, caused by the “representative unhappiness” (Manent) of countless citizens who feel “forgotten” or marginalised by the democratic political system.
- The decline of parties and party government due to phenomena of intra-party capture, corruption, increased abstention or electoral volatility (swing voters), reinforcement of populist parties and anti-system formations, fading and even the abrupt disappearance of traditional “catch all parties”, contributing to the fragmentation and disruption of party systems.
- The decline of democratic politics due to the prominence of dynamics of conflict, fragmentation, single issue politics, dispersion of interests and inability to reconcile these multiple interests around the articulation of a common good.


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