House speakers hold too much power in Brazil, and that’s not changing any time soon

Arthur Lira is among the most powerful figures in the country's politics. And he would have to sign off on any attempt to reduce his vast and often damaging influence

House Speaker Arthur Lira. Photo: J. Batista/CD/CC-BY 4.0
House Speaker Arthur Lira. Photo: J. Batista/CD/CC-BY 4.0

Seasoned observers of Brazilian politics are well aware that, behind the president, the most powerful figure in national politics is not even strictly part of the government. Elected by their peers, the speaker of Brazil’s lower house amasses huge decision-making powers that can shape the country’s entire political landscape — and has done so several times in the past. 

A prime example from Brazil’s very recent history is Eduardo Cunha, whose stint as House Speaker saw him launch impeachment proceedings against then-president Dilma Rousseff and help far-right backbencher Jair Bolsonaro gain national prominence. As described by journalists Mauricio Savarese and...

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