Brazilian constitutional referendum, 1963

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A constitutional referendum was held in Brazil on 6 January 1963. Voters were asked whether they approved of a constitutional amendment made in 1961 that transferred many of the President's powers to the National Congress. The changes were rejected by over 80% of voters.[1]


Following the resignation of Jânio Quadros on 25 August 1961 and the resistance of the Armed Forces and the upper classes to allowing left-wing Vice-President João Goulart to take office, a serious crisis developed, which almost resulted in a civil war. Goulart, who had been on an official visit to the People's Republic of China, was forbidden to return to the country.

Due to Goulart's massive popular support, rather than removing Goulart from office, the National Congress proposed an amendment to the 1946 Constitution, changing the form of government from presidentialism to parliamentarianism, reducing the powers of the President and creating a new post of Prime Minister. The amendment was approved and the military suspended their veto over Goulart, who took office on Independence Day in 1961.

However, the system of government, which had been based on the German model, did not work well, due to the hurry in which the amendment was approved. The ambitions of Goulart and his rivals Juscelino Kubitschek and Carlos Lacerda, both of whom were seeking to become President in the forthcoming 1965 elections, also contributed to the failure of parliamentarianism.

In less than two years, there were three Prime Ministers; Tancredo Neves (1961–1962), Brochado da Rocha (July–September 1962) and Hermes Lima (1962–1963).


Voters were asked "Do you approve the amendment that established parliamentarism?" ("Aprova o ato adicional que instituiu o parlamentarismo?").

Choice Votes %
For 2,073,582 17.98
Against 9,457,448 82.02
Invalid/blank votes 755,145
Total 12,286,175 100
Registered voters/turnout 18'565'277 66.18
Source: Direct Democracy


Goulart, having achieved full presidential powers, started his Basic Reforms plan (Reformas de Base), which led to a military coup d'état in April 1964.


  1. ^ Brazil, 6 January 1963: Parliamentary system Direct Democracy (in German)