Brazil had seven constitutions since its independence. Six were republican constitutions; of those, four (including the present one) were democratic. The 1891 Constitution abolished monarchy and introduced separate state powers. There have so far been six new republican constitution, the current one formally promulgated on 5 Oct 1988 after it had been drafted by a National Congress, specially empowered in 1984.
The 1988 Constitution reinforces the powers of the legislature and introduces environmental protection. The bicameral National Congress comprises the Federal Senate (81 members in 1994) and the Chamber of Deputies (503 in 1994). Voting is compulsory for all literate citizens from 18 to 70 years of age and optional for all others at least 16 years of age. Candidates must belong to a political party. Ministers are directly responsible to the President. Brazil's federal republic consists of 26 States and the Federal District with the capital Brasilia. State governors are elected by direct popular vote. The judiciary comprises a Federal Supreme Court (11 justices) as well as a Superior Court of Justice.
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