the crossroads

Image: Eugenio Barboza
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By LISZT VIEIRA*

Coalition presidentialism or de facto parliamentarism?

During the election campaign, Lula was warned about the need to urge voters to vote for candidates for deputy and senator committed to the Lula/Alckmin ticket. This ended up not being done, perhaps due to the difficulties of the presidential campaign. There are, however, those who assess Lula's overconfidence, based on his previous government. Something like “Elected President, I'll settle with Congress”.

After 4 years of the ultra-right in power, the broad front, bringing together the left, the center, and the non-fascist right, won, by a narrow margin, the presidential election, but the right won the Legislative, where it has a large majority. It's not really a trap. It is, as we shall see later, a crossroads. We are facing an institutional conflict between the Executive, oriented roughly by center-left values, and a Legislature committed to conservative right-wing values ​​and, above all, to the economic and financial interests of the market.

This arm wrestling, which has just begun, tends to continue and may even end up making the success of the Lula government unfeasible. Or, at least, to get in the way a lot. After the defeat with the approval of Marco Temporal, see the high cost of resources for parliamentary amendments that the Government released to win in the Chamber the vote on the MP for the restructuring of Ministries: R $ 1,7 billion for parliamentary amendments! And the Government had already made concessions, as the text weakened the Environment and Indigenous Peoples portfolios. In the Senate, the MP was approved on June 1st by 51 votes in favor and 19 against.

 But this confrontation between the Executive and the Legislative could be, if not resolved, at least attenuated with the intervention of another Power, the Judiciary. It would not be the first time that the STF acts to limit the excessive power that has been enjoyed by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira. Let us remember that the STF decided to “cut the wings” of Deputy Lira when Minister Gilmar Mendes determined on 19/12/2022 that the resources destined to pay social programs to combat poverty and extreme poverty, such as Bolsa Família, could be outside the spending cap limit. In another judgment, still in December of last year, the STF decided on the constitutionality of the so-called secret budget. By 6 votes to 5, the Supreme Court considered the Rapporteur's amendments, the so-called RP9, unconstitutional. The two decisions removed power from the speaker of the House who used the discretionary secret budget to recruit votes.

Recalling the popular saying, “with a judge's head and a baby's ass, nobody knows what's coming”, three processes involving Deputy Lira in the scope of Lava Jato were suspended on 20/3 by decision of Minister Gilmar Mendes. From then on, Deputy Lira turned around and today shows strength in his project to govern the country as de facto Prime Minister, despite not having the unconditional support of the President of the Senate.

Now, however, a corruption case against Lira, who was sleeping in a splendid cradle in some Minister's drawer, was quickly disengaged. In the case, Minister Dias Toffoli had asked for a review and, suddenly, returned the process for judgment by the Plenary, scheduled in principle for next Tuesday, June 6. In case of condemnation, if it really happens, deputy Arthur Lira could not be president of the Chamber, according to one interpretation, or could not just be part of the succession line of the Presidency, according to other analysts. The STF will hit the hammer.

While this does not happen, if it really does happen, Deputy Artur Lira poses as Prime Minister, wanting to command internal affairs, and leaving President Lula mainly to conduct the country's international policy. He is, in practice, wanting to exercise this role of Prime Minister, which does not exist in the Constitution, but with support in the political reality that has allowed Congress, it is not new, to have more power than the Executive in several matters of governance.

The decision of the STF next Tuesday 6/6, if there is no request for a view to postpone indefinitely the trial, may impose yet another limit on Deputy Lira's quest for power, since, as we said, the possibility of the Supreme Court preventing Lira from being President of the Chamber would not be excluded, if convicted in the corruption process in which he appears as a defendant . At the same time, the Government attacks from the other side and the Federal Police carried out a search warrant in 1/6 of the house of a close assistant to Lira, Luciano Cavalcante, on suspicion of embezzlement of funds for the purchase of overpriced robotics kits, causing losses of 8,1 million. A safe full of cash was found in this operation in Deputy Lira's stronghold (O Globo, 1/6/2023).

The result of all this is unpredictable. If nothing happens, we will be facing a hybrid regime, not foreseen in the Constitution, mixing elements of presidentialism and parliamentaryism. A monster that could be called “Coalition Parliamentarianism”. In practice, we would have a de facto Prime Minister dealing with many internal affairs and a President of the Republic mainly taking care of international relations.

Another possible scenario can be deduced from the words of Deputy Artur Lira after the MP for the Ministries was voted: “The Government will have to walk with its legs” and “there will be no kind of sacrifice” on the part of the Chamber. As the Government is a minority in the Chamber, it would have to open strategic positions in the Executive to the Centrão, in a shift to the right that could compromise the promises of the candidate Lula. This hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that, in most Ministries, second-level positions remain unappointed, many still occupied by Bolsonaristas.

Faced with this crossroads, President Lula, as a Holy Warrior, could not defeat the Dragon of Evil alone, symbolized by the President of the Chamber. Perhaps salvation comes from a tacit, unwritten alliance that was already visible on the horizon: the alliance between the Government and the STF to stop the abuse of power by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. But a favorable decision by the STF would not be a “saving” intervention. Deputy Lira has the support of economic power, that is, the financial market and the BBB bench – Boi, Bala and Bible – and, if by chance he is removed, in a short time he would be replaced by another.

A quick parenthesis on a specific topic is worth mentioning here: the political relationship between evangelicals and right-wing violence. The approximation of religion with violence is nothing new in history, as we all know, but Pentecostals, who have grown a lot in Brazil, identify with the Old Testament, with the vengeful and violent God, with the biblical phrase “God, Lord of hosts”. ”. This leads them to an extreme right position, although in the past they have varied in political support depending on the situation: most of them supported the coup in 64 and later supported Lula in 2002. In 2018 and 2022, they closed ranks in support of Bolsonaro . Christians, in large numbers, abandoned the pacifist message of Jesus who died tortured on the cross and began to support a politician who defends torture, weapons, civil war. This is just one example of the relationship between religion and politics. Political parties would face these and other issues, whether moral, social or economic, if they did grassroots work and not limited themselves to parliamentary activities, as has been happening.

Thus, with a Congress dominated by the right, the Government would continue with its hands tied and, sooner or later, would have to mobilize the population for street demonstrations or invent new mechanisms of popular pressure. This would be our “moving forest”, recalling the prophecy of Macbeth's defeat in Shakespeare's famous play. For now, however, progressive civil society seems intoxicated by Lula's electoral victory and has not yet shown signs of mobilization other than messages on social networks or articles in the alternative press.

It is good to remember that, from now on, time should not run in our favor and time, in politics, is usually an important factor.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond).


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