The “day after”

Image: Francesco Ungaro


A broad front for democracy, to be composed, will first need to define which democracy wants to

With the president's waning popularity, seems The final hour of the nightmare that started in 2018 has arrived. The possibility of conversations with hitherto antagonistic groups appears on the horizon, thus forming a new chance to form a “broad front for democracy”. First we take out Bolsonaro, then we'll see what to do. I'm afraid it's not quite that simple. I am afraid that the problem is not just “avoiding” one (new and another) coup, but the creation of concrete conditions for a new political agreement, without which no agreement will proceed. And this pact concerns not only the consummation of a coup or the removal of the president or the presidential ticket, but also what can be done the next day.

To begin with, perhaps there are not two possible options, but three. That is, I speculate that it is not a question of ou a coup by Bolsonaro ou free and normal elections in 2022 (with the probable victory of the popular field in a ticket headed by Lula). It is also necessary to envisage an intermediate option, which not without irony I suggest calling the “third way”. An option that consists of removing Bolsonaro, but also changing the rules of the political game, with the clear intention, albeit veiled, of avoiding a new government of the Workers' Party. Therefore, ou a coup by Bolsonaro; ou a coup against Bolsonaro, but also against Lula; ou there are still free and normal elections in 2022. The three options are plausible, but all three encounter strong impasses in order to last.

1) What would happen if a Bolsonaro coup was successful? In the delirium shared by Bolsonaro and his supporters, the government's problems would end with an intervention in the STF, eventually in parts of the press, or even in certain state governments. But here is the obvious case of a slippery slope: each defeated opponent creates new and more urgent opponents to be beaten. And in none of them does the population's consumption power cope with uncontrolled inflation, rising unemployment, lack of management. Furthermore, it is not easy to imagine a military regime similar to that of the 1970s in the present: would executions be broadcast live on social media? How many individuals would they need to execute? About 30, as Bolsonaro thought in 1999, or would this number need to be readjusted? 50, 100, 200 thousand? And don't you ask, did they agree with the Russians? With the Chinese? With the Americans?

2) What would happen if Bolsonaro were removed from the presidency? The most likely would be a Mourão government (or someone from the line of succession, or even outside it, if some conspiracy further despises apparent 'legitimacy') and the third consecutive attempt, but equally doomed to failure, to, through structural reforms pro -market encourage economic growth (yes, they could ask for music on Fantástico: Temer/Meirelles, Bolsonaro/Guedes and [fill in the viable names here] – and I just don't include Dilma/Levy at the beginning of the sequence because the people of the market, capricious, didn't invest much in this nonsense). But in a few months we would once again have someone besieged by corruption scandals, with dwindling popularity, and growth at best meager, at worst negative, and in any situation without managing to reverse the feeling of worsening in the standard of living of the average citizen, common, all too common. The point is whether these market people, dissatisfied with Bolsonaro, but also with the result of the polls, would not find a way (legitimacy in spades, but nothing very new) to extend some provisional and exceptional regime until creating the necessary conditions to the people to exercise their “maturity” again, who knows when.

3) What would happen if Lula were elected in 2022? Firstly, it is not certain that there will be elections, much less clean and normal elections, with the rules of the game maintained (and I am not talking here only about Bolsonaresque attempts to spoil the election, but also about the attempts of the “arreno” to change the rules in the middle of the match, or on the eve of it) – but, in this case, it would still be situation 1 or 2, and not situation 3. Lula has repeated that he will not return to do less than what he has already done. It could be bravado, of course. But one has to wonder what he would gain from merely acting as a peacemaker, that is, beckoning to the markets and contenting himself with a particularly austere management (that is, more or less what the head of the previous hypothesis). The problem is that he would not have the political strength to break with the obstacles, now constitutional, that prevent any popular agenda: after all, the spending ceiling prevents any significant public investment or any countercyclical measure, even if not very daring. A future government may even form a majority, but would it have a majority capable of turning against the excessive fiscalism that paralyzes any viable recovery project?

Anyway, the introduction of scenario two (and the prediction of the third) in the analysis shows that it is necessary to reverse the priority: first decide what to do the next day, and only then remove Bolsonaro. A broad front for democracy, in order to be composed, will need to define democracy: whether it is just about choosing the manager of the cuts or whether it is a form of political organization in which it is up to society to decide its future.

* Amaro Fleck Professor at the Department of Philosophy at UFMG.

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