In Between the Local and the National: Scaling up Participatory Policies in Brazilian States

Ms. Carla de Paiva Bezerra

In this paper, I compare two different participatory policy designs adopted by two Workers' Party (PT) governments at State level. The cases are separated by a 10 year time lapse, but they are both at the State of Rio Grande do Sul State (RS). I trace back these processes through in depth interviews and a vast document analysis.
I argue that the different design choices are explained by two key features: policy diffusion in between different government levels and different coalition support types. In both cases, the broader space that citizens and civil society gained to influence decisions on the State Budget and Policies were also key for a leftist government to help push for a more redistributive agenda.
In 1999-2002, PT took State Office for the first time. Until then, its only government experience had been at local level where Participatory Budgeting was its showcase policy. The choice was to directly transpose the PB city model to the state level. Its implementation faced harsh resistance from opposition parties, who tried all sorts of political actions, including judicial litigation. PT had a minority support coalition in Parliament and few local governments. Mayors and State Assembly members, argued that the Program overlapped their competencies to define the State Budget.
On its second time at the State Office (2011-2014), the PT had acquired a totally different policy repertoire after almost ten years at the Brazilian Federal Presidency. The effort was to put together the State institutional legacy and the lessons learned at the Federal Government. This time, the Party had built a majority coalition at the State Assembly and ruled most of the local governments. The Participation System proposal had a good reception both by the citizens and by the opposition parties, who held no public contestation for the system institution.