How Brazil mainstream parties helped Jair Bolsonaro

. Oct 08, 2018
How Brazil mainstream parties helped Jair Bolsonaro Jair Bolsonaro is a by-product of Brazil's failed political system

“Brazil’s coalition presidential system will be tested like never before. The partisan mainstream that oriented the political system has been shattered,” said political scientist Sérgio Abranches on Sunday, as exit polls showed the right-wing tsunami that swept Brazil. “The Workers’ Party suffers an iconic defeat and gets confined to the Northeast. The results point to a realignment of forces in Congress – with several medium-sized parties but no big party in the House. The new president, whoever he is, will need a broad and heterogeneous coalition – and his fate will rely on his relationship with his new allies,” he said.

Analysts, pundits, and academics are having a hard time explaining why a seemingly absurd campaign such as Jair Bolsonaro’s has managed to gain traction and get almost 50 million votes in Brazil’s elections. Although it is still early to properly explain this extreme-right phenomenon, one thing is certain: the errors committed by two of Brazil’s most important parties since the 1985 democratization helped lay the foundations for the 2018 elections.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an interview, </span><a href=",nosso-grande-erro-foi-ter-entrado-no-governo-temer,70002500097"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Tasso Jereissatti</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, former chairman of the Social Democracy Party (PSDB), admitted that the party was wrong to challenge Dilma Rousseff&#8217;s reelection in 2014. As soon as  Mrs. Rousseff&#8217;s second term began, the social-democrats engaged in a fierce opposition to the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s government, &#8220;voting against basic principles of ours, mostly on the economy, just to be against the Workers&#8217; Party&#8221;. But the party&#8217;s biggest mistake, Mr. Jereissati said, was to join the Michel Temer administration after Dilma Rousseff was impeached. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Maintaining Senator Aécio Neves as chairman of the party even after he was accused of corruption also had an impact in the PSDB&#8217;s image &#8211; and therefore, delegitimized it as a champion against misdoings in public administration. The consequence is, Mr. Jereissati believes, that many of those who are anti-Workers Party migrated to Jair Bolsonaro. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another critical voice inside the party, </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Marcus Pestana</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, general-secretary of the PSDB, said that those who stood against the impeachment were right because Mrs. Rousseff&#8217;s ousting broke the &#8220;democratic dynamic&#8221;. For </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fernando Limongi</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a professor of political science at the University of São Paulo, this strategy created the scorched land in which Jair Bolsonaro flourished.</span></p> <h2>Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s mistakes</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Workers Party stayed in power for 13 years and has made its fair share of mistakes, according to analysts and some of its own members. When it was revealed that members of the party were involved in corruption both in the &#8220;mensalão&#8221; and the &#8220;petrolão&#8221; cases, the organization failed to apologize and recognize what it had done wrong. </span></p> <p><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Olívio Dutra</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, former governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, said that the Workers&#8217; Party conceded to a kind of politics in which negotiations done by a political elite were worth more than the &#8220;conscious participation of broad popular sectors&#8221;. In Mr. Dutra&#8217;s opinion, the party erred in trying to imitate traditional politics, the one practiced by parties that for years use the public space for their own benefit. &#8220;That was a very serious mistake&#8221;, he said.</span></p> <p><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lincoln Secco,</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> a history professor and researcher at the University of São Paulo, says that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva&#8217;s strategy of conciliation can also be pointed out as a determining factor in Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s downfall. Lula and his followers decided to become pragmatic while the opposition chose radicalization and ideology. The party, he believes, should have punished treasurer Delúbio Soares, who confessed his crimes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But, instead, he was expelled to later be readmitted to the organization. Secco also points out that during her re-election campaign in 2014, Dilma Rousseff promised that austerity policies would not be implemented only to break the promise immediately after taking office again. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ms. Rousseff also did not comprehend the political risks she was under when deciding to fire allies from important posts in an attempt to expunge corruption, believes </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">André Singer</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a political science professor and one of the main pundits of the Workers&#8217; Party while in power. She focused on Petrobras, later targeted by Operation Car Wash, whose main directors and executives had already been fired when the operation started. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Her actions upset certain groups in Brasilia, what lead to retaliation led by jailed former congressman Eduardo Cunha. And this process culminated in Mrs. Rousseff impeachment, Mr. Singer believes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Regarding corruption, Mr. Singer says that both the Workers&#8217; Party and the Social Democracy Party recognized that there were problems, but none offered sufficient explanations as to what happened. Meanwhile, Jair Bolsonaro presented himself as the &#8220;anti-corruption&#8221; guy.

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Diogo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a social scientist and journalist based in São Paulo.

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