List of presidents of Brazil | the new republic (1985–present)

The New Republic (1985–present)

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In the early 1980s the military government started a process of gradual political opening, called abertura, the final goal of which was democracy. When the term of the last military president was to end, however, no direct elections for President of Brazil took place. For the election of the country's first civilian president since the military coup of 1964, the military maintained the rule that prevailed during the dictatorial regime, according to which an Electoral College made up of the entire National Congress and Representatives from State Assemblies was to elect the President. This time, however, the military placed the Electoral College under no coercion, so that its members would be free to select the President of their choice. The Chamber of Deputies and the State Assemblies had been elected, already under the abertura process in the 1982 parliamentary election, but the Senators were chosen indirectly, by the State Assemblies, under rules that had been passed by the Military Regime in 1977 to counter the growing support of the opposition: one third of the Senators was chosen in 1982, and two thirds had been chosen in 1978. After the 1982 elections, the ruling party, PDS (the successor of the ARENA), still controlled a majority of the seats in the National Congress.

Tancredo Neves, who had been Prime Minister during the presidency of João Goulart, was chosen to be the candidate of PMDB, the major opposition party (and the successor of the MDB Party, that had opposed the Military Regime since its inception), but Tancredo was also supported by a large political spectrum, even including a significant part of former members of ARENA, the party that supported the military presidents. In the last months of the military regime, a large section of ARENA members defected from the Party, and now professed to be men of democratic inclinations. They formed the Liberal Front, and the Liberal Front Party allied itself to PMDB, forming a coalition known as the Democratic Alliance. PMDB needed the Liberal Front's support in order to secure victory in the Electoral College. In the formation of this broad coalition former members of ARENA also switched parties and joined PMDB. So, to seal this arrangement, the spot of vice-president in Tancredo Neves' ticket was given to José Sarney, who represented the former supporters of the regime that had now joined the Democratic Alliance. On the other hand, those who remained loyal to the military regime and its legacy renamed ARENA as the PDS. In the PDS's National Convention, two right-wing supporters of the military administrations fought for the Party's nomination: Colonel Mário Andreazza, then Minister of the Interior in General Figueiredo's administration, was the preferred candidate of the incumbent President and of the military elite, but he was defeated by Paulo Maluf, a civilian and former Governor of São Paulo State during the military regime. Tancredo's coalition defeated Maluf, and his election was hailed as the dawn of a New Republic. Andreazza's defeat (by 493 votes to 350) and the selection of Maluf as the PDS's presidential candidate greatly contributed to the split in the Party that led to the formation of the Liberal Front. The Liberal Front refused to support Maluf and joined forces with the PMDB in supporting Tancredo Neves, thus forging the Democratic Alliance. Without that split in the PDS, the election of the opposition candidate would not have been possible.

Although elected President of Brazil, Tancredo Neves became gravely ill on the eve of his inauguration and died without ever taking office. Therefore, the first civilian president since 1964 was Tancredo's running mate, José Sarney, himself an ex-member of ARENA. José Sarney's administration fulfilled Tancredo's campaign promise of passing a constitutional amendment to the Constitution inherited from the military regime, so as to summon elections for a National Constituent Assembly with full powers to draft and adopt a new Constitution for the country, to replace the authoritarian legislation that still remained in place. In October 1988, a new democratic Constitution was passed and democracy was consolidated. In 1989, the first elections for President under the new Constitution were held and the young Fernando Collor de Mello was elected for a five-year term, the first President to be elected by direct popular ballot since the military coup. He was inaugurated in 1990 and in 1992 he became the first President in Brazil to be impeached due to corruption. He however resigned before the final verdict.

A referendum held in 1993 (ahead of the 1993 and 1994 Constitutional Revision) allowed the people to decide the form of government of the state (monarchy or republic) for the first time since the proclamation of the Republic in 1889; the republican form of government prevailed. In the same referendum, the Brazilian people was able to choose again, for the first time since 1963, the system of Government (parliamentary or presidential) and the model of a presidential executive was retained. The revision was a unique opportunity to amend the Constitution with a reduced majority. Had a different form or system of government been chosen in the 1993 referendum, the new institutional structure would have been implemented during the Constitutional Revision. Both the Revision and the referendum on the form and system of government were summoned in the original text of the Constitution. The federal model of the state, retained in the 1988 Constitution, is declared by the Constitution as not subject to abolition, even by Constitutional Amendment. According to those tenets and to the results of the popular vote, only minor changes were made to the institutional framework of the State in the Constitutional Revision, including the adoption of a Constitutional Amendment that reduced the presidential term of office from five to four years.

In 1995, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was inaugurated for a four-year term. In 1997 a Constitutional Amendment was passed allowing presidents of Brazil to be reelected to one consecutive term. In 1998, then President Fernando Henrique Cardoso became first president of Brazil to be reelected for an immediately consecutive term. In 2003 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was inaugurated. He was reelected in 2006. In 2011 Dilma Rousseff became Brazil's first woman president. In 2015 she took office for a Fourth term, but in 2016 the Senate of Brazil convicted her on impeachment charges, and she was removed from office, being succeeded by Michel Temer.


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No. President
Portrait Elected Took office Left office Political party Vice President(s) Previous public office Birthplace
Tancredo Neves
Senador Tancredo Neves 2 (cropped).jpg 1985

Never took office (was elected, but

died before he took office)[af]

Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) José Sarney
Governor of Minas Gerais São João del Rey, Minas Gerais
31 José Sarney
Foto Oficial Sarney EBC.jpg Acting President from 15 March 1985
21 April 1985
14 March 1990 Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB)
Vice President Pinheiro, Maranhão
32 Fernando Collor de Mello
Fernando Collor 1992 B&W.jpg 1989 15 March 1990 Powers and duties suspended from 2 October 1992
29 December 1992[ag]
Party of the National Reconstruction (PRN) Itamar Franco
Governor of Alagoas Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
33 Itamar Franco
Itamar Augusto Cautiero Franco.gif Acting President from 2 October 1992
29 December 1992
31 December 1994 Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB)[ah]
Vice President Brazilian territorial waters, Atlantic Ocean[ai]
34 Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1999).jpg 1994
1 January 1995 31 December 2002 Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) Marco Maciel
Minister of Finance Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
35 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
1 January 2003 31 December 2010 Workers' Party (PT) José Alencar
Federal Deputy for São Paulo (1987–1991) Caetés, Pernambuco
36 Dilma Rousseff
1 January 2011 Powers and duties suspended from 12 May 2016
31 August 2016 [aj]
Workers' Party (PT) Michel Temer
Minister Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais
37 Michel Temer
Acting President from 12 May 2016
31 August 2016
31 December 2018 Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB)[ak]
Vice President Tietê, São Paulo
38 Jair Bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro em 24 de abril de 2019 (1) (cropped).jpg 2018 1 January 2019 Incumbent Social Liberal Party (PSL) (until 2019)

Alliance for Brazil (APB) (from 2019)

Hamilton Mourão (PRTB) Federal Deputy from Rio de Janeiro Glicério, São Paulo