How the ‘secret budget’ in Congress harms the party system

A pair of curious votes in the Senate showed how Brazil's so-called "secret budget" is making political parties even weaker — with opposition lawmakers siding with the government to preserve pork-barreling tools

party system senate
The Senate floor. Photo: Waldemir Barreto/SF/CC-BY 4.0

A group of lawmakers from the center-left Workers’ Party exhibited some odd behavior in two crucial votes last week. First, Senator Rogerio Carvalho voted in favor of a resolution to keep records of opaque budgetary grants a secret, and then a majority of Workers’ Party senators sided with the Bolsonaro government on a budget-related bill. The next day, Workers’ Party chair Gleisi Hoffmann cut a bemused figure on CNN. “I didn’t understand a thing,” she said.

And Ms. Hoffmann is not alone. Several political pundits noted the peculiarity of the votes, which benefited the Jair Bolsonaro administration and...

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