The President’s allies elected the Senate and the House of Commons to chair, a major victory ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The Brazilian Congress has elected two allies of President Jair Bolsonaro to chair the Senate and the House of Commons. This is a major victory for the far-right leader who seeks to get his re-election efforts back on track for 2022.
Arthur Lira from the Progressives (PP) won in the first round of votes for the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies with 302 of 513 votes. Previously, the Democrat (DEM) Rodrigo Pacheco was elected Senate Speaker with 57 out of 81 votes.
Bolsonaro welcomed the results on Twitter and posted photos of himself with the new congress leaders.
He had personally been drawn into the leadership struggles in both houses of the Legislature to improve his difficult relationship with Congress and to fend off the 61 impeachment motions he is facing.
The Senate and Chamber of Deputies spokesmen, elected by their colleagues for two years, are important goalkeepers in Brazilian politics and can decide which laws are to be voted on.
The Speaker of the House of Commons also has the power to accept or defer motions to indict the president – no small matter for the leader, dubbed the “tropical trump card,” who has made dozens of such motions mid-four years in office.
Lira promised “neutrality” in running the house and asked for a minute’s silence to honor the victims of COVID-19.
Bolsonaro, who currently has no political party, is struggling to pass laws in Congress and is increasingly unpopular in the face of an angry second wave of COVID-19 in Brazil.
He won the 2018 election with support from the corporate sector and promised to push through a lengthy program of privatizations and austerity measures.
However, he has made virtually no progress on this agenda. Instead, the economy has beaten the pandemic, which Bolsonaro persistently downplayed.
Bolsonaro sought to use the leadership’s voices to bolster his clout against Congress and forged an alliance with a coalition known as the “Centrao” or “great center,” a loose group of parties whose priority is traditionally therein insisted on gaining access to government posts.
New position in Congress
The biggest challenge for Lira came from Baleia Rossi of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), the candidate supported by former House Speaker Rodrigo Maia (DEM).
Maia has a strained relationship with Bolsonaro and reacted furiously when other lawmakers in his party challenged him to support Lira.
He reportedly threatened to use his last day in the seat to initiate impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro before stepping back
The vote could have lasted until the early hours of Tuesday if none of the candidates had received at least 257 of the 513 votes.
Bolsonaro’s position in Congress should for now allay the growing outcry following his impeachment from critics who have filed 60 dismissal motions, largely for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that killed around 224,000 Brazilians.
Pacheco, of the center-right Democratic Party, has vowed to find a compromise between tax restrictions and aid to socially vulnerable Brazilians affected by the pandemic.
He also said he would not prioritize the privatization of Eletrobras, Latin America’s largest utility company and one of the government’s largest potential asset sales, as it will help reduce the budget deficit.
Despite a deep recession and the world’s second deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, opinion polls show Bolsonaro maintains core support for a third of voters, despite its support waning in January as the second wave of the pandemic began to burn.
His popular support and growing willingness to discuss the traditional horse trade in Congress have helped him create a political base for center-right lawmakers.