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‘Beheading’, Rule Manipulation and Fraud: The Approval of Election Results in Brazil, 1894–1930

Abstract
Abstract

Studies of electoral fraud tend to focus their analyses only on the pre-electoral or electoral phases. By examining the Brazilian First Republic (1889–1930), this article shifts the focus to a later phase, discussing a particular type of electoral fraud that has been little explored by the literature, namely, that perpetrated by the legislatures themselves during the process of giving final approval to election results. The Brazilian case is interesting because of a practice known as degola (‘beheading’) whereby electoral results were altered when Congress decided on which deputies to certify as duly elected. This has come to be seen as a widespread and standard practice in this period. However, this article shows that this final phase of rubber-stamping or overturning election results was important not because of the number of degolas, which was actually much lower than the literature would have us believe, but chiefly because of their strategic use during moments of political uncertainty. It argues that the congressional certification of electoral results was deployed as a key tool in ensuring the political stability of the Republican regime in the absence of an electoral court.

Spanish abstract

Los estudios sobre el fraude electoral tienden a enfocar su análisis sólo en las fases pre-electorales o electorales. Al examinar la Primera República Brasileña (1889–1930), este artículo mueve su enfoque hacia una fase posterior, discutiendo un tipo particular de fraude electoral que ha sido poco explorado por la literatura, es decir, el que ha sido perpetrado por los legisladores mismos durante el proceso de otorgar la aprobación final de las elecciones. El caso brasileño es interesante debido a la práctica conocida como degola o ‘descabezamiento’, en la cual los resultados electorales eran alterados cuando el Congreso decidía sobre qué diputados serían certificados como debidamente electos. Esto llegó a ser visto como una práctica generalizada y normal en ese periodo. Sin embargo, se muestra que esta fase final de sellar, o revertir, los resultados electorales fue importante no debido al número de degolas, que fue de hecho mucho más bajo de lo que la literatura nos hubiera hecho pensar, sino más que todo debido a su uso estratégico durante momentos de incertidumbre política. Entonces, se argumenta que la certificación del Congreso de los resultados electorales fue implementada como una herramienta clave para asegurar la estabilidad política del Régimen de la República en la ausencia de un tribunal electoral.

Portuguese abstract

Estudos sobre a fraude eleitoral tendem a situar a análise apenas no âmbito pré-eleitoral ou eleitoral. Partindo do caso brasileiro durante a Primeira Republica (1889–1930), este artigo desloca o foco para uma fase posterior, discutindo um tipo específico de fraude eleitoral pouco explorado pela literatura: aquela cometida no ato da certificação das eleições pelos próprios legislativos. O caso brasileiro é interessante, porque, de acordo com a visão tradicional, representaria um caso típico de mudanças dos resultados eleitorais no processo de verificação dos poderes – fenômeno conhecido no Brasil com o termo de degola. Mostraremos que o processo de verificação dos diplomas no âmbito nacional adquiria sua relevância não pelo volume das degolas promovidas (que foi menor do que a literatura nos leva a crer), mas sobretudo pelo seu uso estratégico, manifesto plenamente em momentos políticos críticos. Isso reforça a hipótese de que a estabilidade política do regime era garantida independentemente da ausência de uma justiça eleitoral que centralizasse o processo de certificação dos resultados.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Eduardo Posada-Carbó , ‘Limits of Power: Elections Under the Conservative Hegemony in Colombia, 1886–1930’, Hispanic American Historical Review, 77: 2 (1997), pp. 245–79

Fabrice E. Lehoucq , ‘Electoral Fraud: Causes, Types, and Consequences’, Annual Review of Political Science, 6 (2003), pp. 233–56

Hilda Sabato , ‘On Political Citizenship in Nineteenth-Century Latin America’, American Historical Review, 106: 4 (2001), pp. 1290–315

Fabrice E. Lehoucq , ‘Can Parties Police Themselves? Electoral Governance and Democratization’, International Political Science Review, 23: 1 (2002), pp. 2946

Andreas Schedler , ‘The Nested Game of Democratization by Elections’, International Political Science Review, 23: 1 (2002), p. 105

Jeffery A. Jenkins , ‘Partisanship and Contested Election Cases in the House of Representatives, 1789–2002’, Studies in American Political Development, 18: 2 (2004), pp. 112–35

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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