The headline about the system of government implemented at the cash register. PHOTO: Reproduction

For lack of a better term, they called it a “compromise solution”. Overnight, the parliamentary system of government was adopted to allow João Goulart, aka Jango, to land in Brazil and take over the presidency of the Republic. Deputy of Jânio Quadros, Jango was on a stopover in Singapore, returning from a trip to China, when the president resigned.

If the rules of the democratic game were in effect, Jango would take over the government, period. The military ministers, however, saw in his momentary absence the breach to prevent the inauguration of a left-wing nationalist politician, close to the unions. With the support of conservative sectors of society, they announced their position and attempted the coup.

The resistance was led by Rio Grande do Sul governor Leonel Brizola, who launched a successful campaign for legality, backed by the Third Army of Rio Grande do Sul. Fearing that the conflict would degenerate into civil war, Jango accepted to take over only as head of state, prevented from drafting laws and directing foreign policy, among other restrictions.

Jango took office at the Planalto Palace on September 7, 1961, 13 days after Jânio Quadros resigned. At that time, the constitutional amendment that installed the parliamentary system in Brazil had been approved. In the 17 months that the regime lasted, Brazil had three prime ministers: Tancredo Neves, Brochado da Rocha and Hermes Lima.

But the amendment to the Constitution that introduced parliamentarism also provided for a plebiscite in 1965 to decide whether or not to maintain the political system imposed by conservatism. Jango, who from his first day as president worked for the return of presidentialism, managed to get Congress to bring forward the plebiscite to January 1963.

“Free the president, reforms go ahead”, was one of the slogans of the campaign for the “No” to parliamentarism. With 82% of the valid votes, the popular consultation restored presidentialism. Thirty years later, in April 1993, the question about the political regime that should govern the country was repeated to Brazilians. Again, it gave presidentialism, with 55% of the votes, against 25% for parliamentarism and 10% for the monarchy.

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