Bras. Political Sci. Rev.2017;11(3):e0006.
Representatives of whom?
In the midst of one of the worst political crises in Brazilian history, UFRJ Professor Jairo Nicolau’s book, “Representantes de quem?: os (des)caminhos do seu voto da urna à Câmara dos Deputados” (Representatives of whom? The (un-)path of your vote at the polls to the Chamber of Deputies) comes at a timely moment. Written in accessible language and free of excessive jargon, the book seeks to show how our electoral system functions to a broader public, beyond the walls of academia, by tracing the path from a vote at the ballot box to the distribution of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
With a brief glossary for the few technical terms used, one introduction, seven chapters and six appendices, the book starts with a brief narrative of the parliamentary session of Sunday, April 17, 2016, in which the Chamber of Deputies approved President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. This widely televised vote exposed the 504 deputies who attended to a national audience. It also gave exposure to the justifications for their votes (‘in the name of God’, ‘for my city’, ‘for my family’) and to idiosyncratic behavior such as using the national flag as a cape and throwing confetti while registering one’s vote. The uncommon media coverage of the parliamentary activity—at least with this level of detail—led to numerous reactions on social media and the court of public opinion during and after the session. For one reason or another, these reactions tended to focus on the supposed non-representativeness of Brazil’s deputies. This is the narrative used by Nicolau in his attempt, throughout the book’s seven chapters, to answer the question of who and what our deputies represent, and why we tend to consider ourselves unrepresented by them.