With the end of the year approaching, the weeks get shorter, more dispersed, and events move at a dizzying pace. With Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet formed, attentions now turn to the progression of their government agenda and, alongside this, the negotiations and formation of a majority in Congress. It is here that we see the president-elect’s garden is not all roses; little by little, evidence appears of objectives being out of sync and disperse intentions among the various sectors of the future Bolsonaro administration.
Paulo Guedes and his team have their attention focused, evidently, on the economy. They understand that regaining the confidence of financial agents and attracting investment translates into moving the country into a new cycle. Economic development could mean finally getting over the crisis which has suffocated Brazil for the last four years.
Of course, the president-elect, his sons and closest political advisors agree with this. However, for Mr. Guedes and other important financial players, the start of the recovery must first involve the reform of the pensions system.
If the reform progresses smoothly at the beginning, we will see what economists call a positive shock of expectations. The faith in a presumed march towards development is often what makes development actually occur. The opposite is also true, and the situation could get even worse. Therefore, the destiny of the country depends on the first signs of control (or lack of control) in the process of reform. These are the so-called self-fulfilling prophecies.
Looking at opinions given by the vice-president-elect, Hamilton Mourão, “the focal point” of this matter “is the view of the president… and this is what is worrying.” Mr. Bolsonaro appears not to be completely committed to the reform.
The proposed changes to the pensions system which are both profound and necessary are likely to harm sectors which were crucial for Mr. Bolsonaro’s election: judges, prosecutors, members of the Armed Forces, police. Taking on these interests means confronting his own support base. It is for this reason that Mr. Bolsonaro and his operators have waffled on the subject of the reforms.
The president-elect has indicated that he could “divide up” the reform, beginning with changes to the minimum retirement age. And the rest is unknown, when and how it will be proposed, and if it will be left on someone else’s tab. The matter has increased tensions within the future government, with pressure on all sides.
A similar situation of disharmony appears to occur on the subject of electing Rodrigo Maia as House Speaker, about which Mr. Bolsonaro’s troupe is divided. The pure and radical wing of the new government identifies Mr. Maia with “old politics” and demands fresh faces. Meanwhile, the other side of Mr. Bolsonaro’s support tends more toward pragmatism: if not backed by the government, Mr. Maia will look for support from the left and the opposition. With an opposition-backed Speaker in the lower house, reforms have very little chance of succeeding.
Meanwhile, the future government is suffering from a tremendous dearth of well-tested political operators. His front-line, which is small and inexperienced, currently made up of former members of parliament who failed to win re-election, transmits very little credibility. In the Congress, no-one listens to people without terms.
A matter of days before being sworn in, the government is still an obscure mass of disputes and uncertainties. Another point of tension is the matter of the financial transactions of an ex-advisor of Flávio Bolsonaro—Senator-elect and son of the president-elect—which have yet to be cleared up. This uncertainty is what is keeping the story in the media, signaling that it may cause damage to the government’s image.
Squabbles and quarrels, ethical scandals and a mistake here and there are essentially inevitable in any government. However, they usually take a bit longer to creep in. Never has a government faced so many scandals so early, right from the whistle.