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By FRANCISCO FERNANDES LADEIRA*

With ineligibility, the right seeks a replacement for Jair Bolsonaro

This Friday, June 30, the long-awaited decision of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) came out: for abuse of political power and misuse of the media, Jair Bolsonaro is ineligible for eight years. There is still an appeal – to the TSE itself or to the Federal Supreme Court (STF) – but, with the “myth” unable to contest elections, there is a great opportunity for the Brazilian right to build a strong name for the 2026 presidential election, without having to resort to embarrassed support for the former Army captain.

O jornal Folha de S. Paul hails it as a golden chance. “Success would depend, however, on structuring a minimum agenda of proposals, which demarcates differences with the left in the economic sphere and leaves the customs agenda in the background. The idea is to promote a kind of qualified anti-PTism, to avoid the risk of emptying the discourse”, pointed out the Frias family newspaper.

In other words, the right seeks to make viable a name that can defeat the PT in 2026, but that does not carry out the same embarrassments, hallucinations and Bolsonarist bravado and, at the same time, put into practice the nefarious neoliberal agenda (which means to uproot the worker's hide and hand over the Brazilian State to big capital). In short: exchange the “radical and barbaric right” for a “clean and civilized right”.

Last year, they tried this maneuver, with the failed “Terceira Via”. But, with Jair Bolsonaro out of the running, things take a different turn. Not that it's easy. The traditional right has never been popular in Brazil. On many occasions, he had to improvise names from the lower political clergy to win elections, such as Jânio Quadros, Fernando Collor and Jair Bolsonaro himself. On the other hand, Lula is still quite popular; he can easily be re-elected or elect his successor.

Even before the ruling on Jair Bolsonaro’s ineligibility came out, in the conservative press, both in large and small vehicles, there was already speculation about who would replace the “myth” as leader of the Brazilian right.

At least five governors are quoted for the post – Eduardo Leite, Ratinho Júnior, Romeu Zema, Ronaldo Caiado and Tarcísio de Freitas –, with the São Paulo representative, for the time being, the favorite to replace Jair Bolsonaro.

According to the columnists of the main news programs in the country, Tarcísio de Freitas has a “technical” and “pragmatic” profile (a euphemism for public agents who efficiently execute policies favorable to the market and contrary to the interests of the population, such as privatizations and cuts in public investments in health and education).

For the aforementioned Folha de S. Paul, Tarcísio de Freitas, as well as the governor of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema, are characters who dialogue with Bolsonarism and, concomitantly, have a performance less linked to confrontations.

Thus, according to the São Paulo newspaper, they could lead the right that rose with Bolsonaro, but emphasizing economic liberalism and nodding to the conservative part of the population, through shared values, such as family and religion.

In turn, Ratinho Júnior, governor of Paraná, is appointed by the State St. Paul as a “moderate”, “center” and “anti-extremist” politician, who “may have had his national knowledge boosted by the fame of his father, television presenter Carlos Massa, the Ratinho”.

As for Eduardo Leite, governor of Rio Grande do Sul, for being homosexual, he can raise the flag of identity, which even tends to garner the support of less politicized sectors of the left. However, the rejection of the more conservative electorate weighs heavily against Eduardo Leite.

Finally, in an article published in Option Newspaper, the journalist Euler from França Belém defended the name of Ronaldo Caiado to replace Jair Bolsonaro as the main politician of the Brazilian right. For him, the governor of Goiás is liberal, he assumes himself to be on the right, but has nothing to do with the messianic reactionism of the worst Bolsonarism. It is a “moderate”, “civilized” and “rationalist” right.

Evidently, I will not do like Rui Costa Pimenta, from the PCO, and regret the ineligibility of Jair Bolsonaro. And? I can't do anything; I am not an electoral judge. But it is a fact that, for the right, the departure of the former president from the political scene for eight years is great news. They are going to get rid of a nuisance: the “collateral effect of the 2016 coup”. As Lula summarized well: they planted Aécio Neves and harvested Jair Bolsonaro. Finally, they will be able to throw the bad harvest away.

What used to be the “Third Way” will now become the main opposition force to the PT, whether with Romeu Zema, Tarcísio de Freitas, Ronaldo Caiado, Ratinho Júnior, Eduardo Leite or any other name “driven” by the hegemonic press. Will someone be sold as “moderate”, “pragmatic”, “conciliatory”, “technical”, “balanced”, “civilized” and “not adept at polarization”.

Faced with this reality, it is up to us on the left to stay alert, denounce and not fall into these political traps.

*Francisco Fernandes Ladeira is a doctoral student in geography at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). Author, among other books, of The ideology of international news (ed. CRV).


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