Is it too early to say “goodbye Bolsonaro”?

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By LEONARDO AVRITZER*

A new configuration between political center, streets and opposition

Jair M. Bolsonaro formed the most heterogeneous and most heterodox support coalition in Brazil's recent history. I explain. It is known that the army, the centrão, security and financial market corporations, in addition to the legion of inedible motorcyclists (according to the T-shirt one of them was wearing), have little in common when we think in terms of a political project.

But it must be recognized that these groups have provided a relatively stable base of support for a president who, it seems, has yet to dedicate an entire day to trying to govern the country. On the contrary, since the beginning of the pandemic, everything indicates that he understands his mandate as the art of undoing public health policies, boycotting the purchase of vaccines and betting on ineffective medicines. Surprisingly, until a few weeks ago, a significant part of his support base adhered to this heterodox political project. It was even possible to find a general who enjoyed disorganizing health policy in the country, in the name of logistics and the legitimacy of the Armed Forces.

The last few weeks have given the impression that this coalition has finally broken down. Since dismissing the Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo, in April of this year, Bolsonaro does not seem to have the same support in that institution that he insists on calling “my army”. “Mine” should be understood as further evidence that the president of Brazil has a vision Old regime on the functioning of the institutions of the Brazilian State. For him, who has already spoken of “my constitution”, the army is an institution that he treats personally, like a father: it guarantees salaries, generous retirement plans, attends irrelevant graduations such as those of Air Force specialists in Guaratinguetá this week. It demands, however, a counterpart that “my army” is less and less willing to offer: absolute fidelity, even compromising the idea of ​​hierarchy. There seems, finally, to be the resistance of the forces that believe that corporatism and hierarchy have to be minimally compatible.

The president's second problem is called the centrão. Jair Bolsonaro considers the political system a bunch of lepers, but assumes the maxim of former US President Richard Nixon: among them there are his lepers, to whom he turns when he faces problems in Congress. This strategy worked until the beginning of 2021. Whenever Bolsonaro needed to build majorities in Congress, he did and twice managed to make the president of both houses. Until the opposition managed, through the Supreme, not only to install a CPI, but also to have a majority in it.

And that's when Bolsonaro's problems began, who did not believe in the capacity of the political system and the opposition to force his government to account for its actions during the pandemic. Even more surprising was the situation in which a deputy from the Democrats and his brother put the president, when they produced strong evidence that the captain knew about an overpriced vaccine purchase scheme - Covaxin.

All these facts together point in two directions: first, that the political arrangement that stabilized Bolsonaro beyond the normalities of the political system has come to an end. That is, the same rules now apply to the captain president as have applied to all members of the political system since democratization. Bolsonaro was above these rules because the broad coalition that brought him to power ended up having to compromise with the misrule he instituted. That moment seems to have passed, as Bolsonarism began to threaten the existence of democracy and these forces at the center.

Nothing better to exemplify this point than the pathetic interview by Onyx Lorenzoni on Wednesday (June 23) threatening the Ministry of Health employee and his congressman brother. Secondly, it seems clear that the strategy of threatening the political system with the forces of military coercion also seems to be coming to an end and even the coercions carried out by the Institutional Security Office have ceased due to the depression of the minister in charge. The president seems to be afraid of taking one more irrelevant trip and finding himself there with the real Brazil that is dying of Covid.

Thus, centrão and the military seem to be dissociating themselves, finally, from the Bolsonarist adventure in which they were first-time participants. In addition to all the reasons listed above, there seems to be a third, which has a name and CPF. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is being able to assemble an extremely broad alliance that, it seems, will involve the main political leaders of the opposition. On the one hand, Lula was able to approach politicians from the center with the mayor of Belo Horizonte Alexandre Kalil, to assemble a viable ticket around Marcelo Freixo in Rio and to reorient the PSB and its alliances in the Northeast region.

Evidently this scenario points to an electoral victory for Lula next year and worries precisely those who thought they could push the Bolsonarista adventure until 2026. It doesn't seem to be possible anymore and the question is what to do with the retired captain.

To understand this new configuration between the political center, the streets and the opposition, it is worth analyzing how other presidents have faced it. One president faced more street protests than opposition in Congress, as in the case of FHC, and another faced more opposition in Congress than in the streets, as in the case of Lula during the monthly allowance. Finally, another recent president faced opposition in the streets and in Congress and did not resist, as was the case of former president Dilma. Jair Bolsonaro has entered, in recent weeks, the same swampy field that overthrew Dilma Rousseff and lost support that she never had, such as the military corporations.

At the same time, Hamilton Mourão – who doesn't seem to be used to letters – went to Roberto D'Ávila's program to parade his intentions in a possible transitional government. The dice are set for the captain's future, unless the group of inedible bikers manages to keep him in power.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).

 

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