Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB)

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Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB)

The Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira; PSDB), one of Brazil's largest political parties, was founded on June 24, 1988, seventy-two hours after the proclamation of the 1988 constitution. The party's founders, almost all of whom were members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), were leaders of the democracy movement that had mobilized and managed Brazil's transition from military dictatorship and had helped craft the constitution. Once a democratic framework was established, the PSDB founders left the PMDB because they felt it had lost its focus on political and social reform in a scramble for political office and patronage. The key leaders in the founding of the party were Franco Montoro, the PMDB governor of the state of São Paulo; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, leader of the PMDB in the federal senate; and Mário Covas, a PMDB senator and former mayor of the city of São Paulo. Other members of the nucleus that founded the party were José Serra, Pimenta da Viega, José Richa, Euclides Scalco, and Artur da Távola. The party is known by the nickname tucanos (toucans).

With its strong base in the state of São Paulo, and its large number of well-known national leaders, the party grew steadily. In the 1990 elections it elected 38 federal deputies and 67 state deputies in 19 states, but it lost important campaigns for the governorships of the states of São Paulo, Paraná, and Minas Gerais. The party's greatest triumph was the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso—who as finance minister in the previous government had ended the hyperinflation that had plagued Brazil for decades—as president with 54.3 percent of the vote in 1994, against 27.1 percent for Workers Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He was reelected with 53.1 percent of the vote against Lula da Silva's 31.7 percent in 1998. PSDB candidate Mário Covas won the governorship of São Paulo in 1994 and was reelected in 1998, but the party lost governorship elections in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul.

In the 2002 presidential elections, PSDB candidate José Serra received 23.2 percent of the vote in the first round, against 46.4 percent for Lula da Silva, who won in the runoff. However, the PSDB won seven governorships in that year, including the most populous states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, while the Workers Party won only three smaller states.

See alsoCardoso, Fernando Henrique; Silva, Luis Inácio Lula da.


Goertzel, Ted G. Fernando Henrique Cardoso: Reinventing Democracy in Brazil. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.

Nascisdo para mudar o Brasil—A história do PSDB. Available from PSDB,

Serra, José, as interviewed by Teodomiro Braga. O Sonhador que Faz: A vida, a trajetória política e as idéias de José Serra. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2002.

                                           Ted Goertzel