All hail the … king?

“People usually conspire to reach power. I am already in power. I am already the president,” said President Jair Bolsonaro. “I am, in fact, the Constitution,” he added. While trying to sound like a democrat, the president ended up paraphrasing 17th century French King Louis XIV, a historic symbol of absolutist rule, who is famously quoted as having said: “L’état, c’est moi,” or “I am the state.”

Mr. Bolsonaro’s anti-democratic rants are usually followed by conciliatory, moderate statements. It is part of an ongoing push-and-pull strategy to consistently test the boundaries of institutions and the general public, before a speedy backtrack. That morning, while attempting to put out another fire, Mr. Bolsonaro blurted out a statement that was the polar opposite of moderation. Speaking to reporters, the president declared that he was the embodiment of Brazil’s Constitution.

All hail the king? The far-right leader is negotiating more than ever. In a desperate attempt to gain some parliamentary support to block bills to which the government is opposed — as well as survive a potential impeachment process — Mr. Bolsonaro is in talks with small center-right parties and could be about to propose a major cabinet reshuffle. The “old politics” he promised to combat could now become his only ally. 

Last week, the lower house passed a plan to give Brazilian states no-strings-attached financial aid during the pandemic. Despite the government’s staunch opposition to the bill, it was approved with an overwhelming majority, showing just how ineffective his administration has been in whipping Congress votes. One Bolsonaro-supporting congressman told The Brazilian Report that government whips are often kept in the dark about the voting agenda for any given day. “We have to hunt for information ourselves,” he complained.

In the meantime, former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes, from the Democratic Labour Party, issued a new impeachment request against President Bolsonaro. Now, House Speaker Rodrigo Maia has 24 — yes, twenty-four — petitions to remove President Bolsonaro sitting on his desk. That’s more bills than Mr. Bolsonaro approved in his 28 years as a congressman. 

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