Notes on the situation

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By André Singer*

The package of economic measures

The government sent three proposed amendments to the Constitution to the Senate. One called the “federative pact”, another about the “fiscal emergency”, and the third referring to what the government calls “public funds”.

Each of these proposals contains quite bold measures. In the case of the federative pact, the merger of municipalities with less than five thousand inhabitants whose collection is less than 10% of the total revenue of that municipality is foreseen. It is estimated that this measure can reach up to a thousand municipalities, which are thus subject to disappearance.

In the case of a fiscal emergency, the reduction of wages and hours of public servants is authorized. With regard to public funds, the government proposes to extinguish 248 funds, including the Fundo de Amparo ao Trabalhador (FAT), which allocates resources for unemployment insurance and wage bonuses.

The substantive content of these measures must be the object of a debate with mainly economic contours. From a political point of view, it is worth highlighting the context in which these measures were sent.

The package was forwarded at a time when the news was being occupied by a series of intense controversies, starting with the mention of the name of the President of the Republic in an investigation into the case of the murder of councilor Marielle Franco. Afterwards, the Rio de Janeiro Public Prosecutor's Office attested that the mention of his name was improper.

Afterwards, however, there was a bombastic statement by one of the president's sons defending the reissue of AI5. This provoked a general repudiation by the political forces, the president of the Chamber, the president of the Senate, members of the STF, the president of the OAB and so on. In the wake of this sequence of political facts, this package emerged, which seems to configure a kind of response to the wear and tear resulting from the news.

The government's profile is quite radical and has been the target of criticism by those who see an authoritarian tendency in it. By sending this package it is as if the government were saying: “we are proposing changes, such as this reform of the State. Anyone who agrees with the outlines of these measures must support the government”.

I consider it unlikely that this package will be approved by Congress. He's too radical. Furthermore, there was not enough preparation to garner support for these measures in parliament, as occurred in the case of pension reform. There it was a subject that had already been debated for a long time and had been presented, in some form, several times. Thus, the Bolsonaro government ended up adopting a proposal that had existed for a long time.

In the case of the package in question, it is a new thing. There is a tendency here, a movement towards the dismantling of the State. They talk about reform, but in practice it is a dismantling of the State. It is important to point out, however, from a political point of view, that this is a maneuver, an attempt to oppose this wave of erosion.

The crisis in Bolivia

Everything indicates that Evo Morales was overthrown by a coup d'état. Many argue that, a moment before the election, Evo Morales himself did not accept the result of a referendum, which complicates the situation. Without going into that discussion, the fact is that at the moment there was an established government, there was an ongoing electoral process. The result of the election was disputed. While this process was being discussed, the government was overthrown.

It becomes very noticeable that democracy runs serious risks all over the world and also in South America, as the events in Bolivia make evident. We are facing a worldwide crisis of democracy. In the political science literature this is well established. What is discussed is the intensity of these risks.

What is happening in Bolivia is still worrying because, although Brazil and Bolivia are countries of different stature, it is an event to which Brazil is not completely immune. I am not prophesying that this will happen in the country. I obviously hope that this does not happen and, above all, we are fighting to ensure that nothing similar happens in Brazil.

The main guarantee that events of this type, that interruptions of democracy, will not happen is the vigilance of public opinion, of society. Society needs to remain alert to the risks that democracy is taking. This is an indispensable prerequisite for anyone who wants to prevent situations like this from occurring elsewhere, and especially in Brazil.

President Bolsonaro's new party

The announcement made by the president of his disaffiliation from the political party for which he was elected and the creation of a new party constitutes a novelty.

The model of Brazilian presidentialism, which we can call hyper-presidentialism, guarantees the President of the Republic, even if he is in a process of wear and tear, a strong capacity to build new ones or renew old acronyms.

In relation to this acronym that appears on the initiative of President Bolsonaro, it is worth noting two things.

First, I would dare to say that the similarity of names between the new party, Aliança pelo Brasil, and the party that was constituted as the political arm of the military dictatorship, the National Renewal Alliance (Arena) is not a coincidence.

It is a public fact that both the president and his family are admirers of the military regime. It is not difficult to assume that the Arena served as an inspiration and that, therefore, an ideology close to the ideology that sustained the military regime in Brazil tends to be the hallmark of this new party within the political spectrum.

A second point to note is that the experience of different presidents with their support parties is diverse. The entry of ex-president José Sarney into the MDB (he was the last president of the former Arena) significantly altered the character of the MDB. Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, despite having obtained high approval ratings at the time when the Real Plan tamed inflation, was unable to transfer this popularity to the PSDB. Former President Lula, finally, managed to make the PT, which was already a strong party even before winning the Presidency of the Republic, acquire more roots in the country.

The answer to the question about the possibility of President Bolsonaro succeeding in this endeavor will depend on his political skill and even his commitment. The construction of a party is not limited to the creation of a new acronym, it is something that demands a lot of work.

On the other hand, this party is being born with an extreme bias. It is a split from the president's current party, the PSL, and one has the impression that it is a split that is very centered on the Bolsonaro family, with a more right-wing direction.

In Political Science it is very risky to make predictions, in general our predictions are not confirmed. But, from this angle, observing these points, the chances of the Alliance for Brazil becoming a large party seem restricted. It is not possible to say that this will not happen, but the way he starts it is a relatively difficult task.

* André Singer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at USP. Text based on interviews granted to Rádio USP

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