Intramunicipal Decentralization in Brazilian Metropolises: Politics, Policies and Participation

Prof. Fernando Abrucio
Prof. Eduardo Grin

This paper investigates a lesser known subject in Brazilian local governments studies: territorial decentralization in the metropolises. However, many big cities have been implementing different models of subdistrictsm (administrative regions, subprefectures or regional executive secretaries) which produce great effects on the citizen participation, public service providing, and municipal politics. This research was organized based on three theoretical approaches. The first one, decentralization analyzes how public policies enjoy territorial political, managerial and financial autonomy. The second one related to the citizen participation to analyze if political ideology of mayor's party influences this process. The pluralist approach discusses if subdistrictism can produce impacts on municipal politics once territorial division may affect the interests of political actors as the mayor or aldermen in their regional electoral fields. Based on these theoretical standpoints the two research questions are: why Brazilian capitals decided to implement decentralization considering these three intertwined dimensions? How each city dealt with these issues and how them affected the territorial design as for local participation, public services offering and the regional politics considering the interests of mayors and councilors? The research was developed in 2018 through a comparative way in eight Brazilian capitals (Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, São Paulo e Vitória). This set of cities enabled to get great variance in experiences and controlled the bias of selection. In each city a researcher was responsible for analyzing the municipal experience, according to the same guidelines and theoretical approach. Based on this material it was realized a meta-analysis comparing the eight existing cases, in some cities, since the 1960s. We conclude that: a) there are not empirical evidences linking intramunicipal decentralization with administrative efficacy and reduction of social inequality through public services providing; b) left-wing parties are more prone to implement territorial participatory instruments than centrist and right-wing ones; c) for all political ideologies municipal subdistrictism was an useful political resource to build support for mayoral political coalition because he/she attended councilors’ demands in the neighborhoods. In sum, policy design, municipal politics, and social control instruments have been influencing the implementation of the subdistrictism in Brazilian metropolises.