Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff Urges Referendum for Political Reform

With elections still 15 months away, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff issued a request to Congress Monday to hold a referendum on political reform. This move for a public vote comes just a few weeks after Brazil's biggest protest movement in the last 20 years.

The demonstrations began in response to frustration around the country's poor health, education, and public transportation services—and in anger over the $14 billion Brazil plans to spend on the 2014 World Cup, rather than improving said services.

That's a lot of issues, so what would a vote entail? Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo said the referendum will address the reform of election campaign financing (which currently involves both public and private funding), the congressional voting system, and concerns over the practice of legislators casting secret votes on bills before Congress.

Unsurprisingly, Rousseff's political opponents have criticized initiative as "a populist play to the gallery to bypass congress, in the vein of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who so often leveraged his charm to bully rivals."

Another criticism that Rousseff's rivals have about the referendum is its timeline: Rousseff said she plans to implement reforms based on the outcome of the referendum before the presidential elections in 2014. Critics say that is simply too fast, and is impossible. She argues otherwise:

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