President Bolsonaro's Conflicts

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By André Singer*

We are approaching the end of President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office. During this period there were many conflicts between him and his party, the PSL. At the beginning of the year, the then Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, Gustavo Bebiano, was dismissed. Bebiano led the PSL in 2018 during the election campaign and was a key figure in the government.

At this moment, we again have friction between the president and his party. Now Bolsonaro apparently seeks to distance himself from the allegations related to a scheme of “orange” PSL candidacies in Minas Gerais, which would have been used to divert money, through slush funds, to the campaign of the President of the Republic.

His attempt to distance himself from the PSL, to distance himself from involvement with these accusations, stems largely from the way in which he placed himself in the electoral campaign, adopting the fight against corruption as a banner, spreading the idea that leftist parties, from the center-left field, were corrupt, and promising to clean up Brazilian politics. Because of this, it becomes very difficult for him to continue in an acronym that is also involved in corruption allegations.

These accusations are not new, they are news that have been reflected in the press since the beginning of the year. Its sequel, however, is configuring an uncomfortable situation for those who need a parliamentary, social and political base to continue governing.

In itself, each of these episodes is not enough to produce a breaking situation. However, when you add it all up, the social isolation measured in government evaluation surveys; the isolation in the National Congress, where the governing base is not enough to provide latitude to the executive, where the parliamentary initiative is concentrated in the hands of the presidency of the Chamber and the presidency of the Senate – it seems clear that there is an accumulation of wear and tear.

Furthermore, the economy fails to take off, although in recent days positive data have led many economists to speak of small signs of economic recovery, a prediction that has yet to be confirmed.

Frictions also emerged between the presidential circle and the military, an important supporter of Bolsonaro. The president is also in permanent conflict with sectors of the press and with social movements of various types: environmental movements, movements in defense of indigenous rights, human rights in general, etc.

In short, a large set of conflicts, wear and tear and, let's say, problems were generated that, in the final balance, end up, by the sum, producing a situation of weakening the government, which is not exactly a novelty. Much has been said about this throughout the year. But as all this accumulates, at some point a situation may arise that makes it objectively more difficult for the government to continue.

*André Singer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at USP

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