Zucco & Samuels February 26, 2012
The PT was granted legal recognition in 1982. By 1989 about 5 percent of Brazilians identiﬁedas “
,” but that proportion is now about 25 percent, corresponding to 60 percent of all parti-san identiﬁers in Brazil. Meanwhile, since 1989 the PMDB—the successor to the party that servedas the sanctioned opposition under Brazil’s 1964-85 military regime—has steadily lost identiﬁers,and the PSDB—despite holding the presidency from 1995–2002—has never managed to attractmore than a small number of partisans. Although candidates from these and other parties havehad success at the polls, only the PT has captured the partisan loyalties of a sizable proportion of voters.The PT’s growth from zero to one in four voters, over a relatively short period of time, is aremarkable achievement. How did the party grow from a footnote in Brazil’s party system in theearly 1980s
to dominant player today—winning the last three presidential elections and layingdown deep roots in Brazilian society? This question demands an answer. Unfortunately, existingresearch oﬀers no solution to this puzzle, only providing clues as to what is
behind the rise of the PT and the stagnation of partisanship for Brazil’s other parties.The PT’s rise becomes even more theoretically puzzling when we consider the fact that Brazilis, in comparative perspective, a theoretically unlikely case for mass partisanship to emerge. First,Samuels
notes that ideology does not clearly diﬀerentiate between identiﬁers for Brazil’s mainparties. Second, in contrast to several other new democracies in Latin America and Eastern Europe,parties have not organized along pro- and anti-old regime lines. Third, social cleavages such as class,ethnicity, religion, or region are comparatively shallow,
and have historically never provided thebasis for party competition. And ﬁnally, even if such cleavages existed, Brazil’s political institutionsconspire against the emergence of mass partisanship.
Its electoral rules permit high party-systemfragmentation, making it hard for voters to understand where parties stand on the issues, and itsopen-list system for legislative elections fosters both intra- and inter-party competition, attenuatingthe importance of party labels and enhancing the importance of individual candidates’ reputations.In short, the institutional context and the absence of deep ideological or socio-cultural cleavages