Open confrontation with the Supreme Court has been President Jair Bolsonaro’s M.O. since the first year of his administration. But with the presidential election looming closer, Mr. Bolsonaro has ramped up his rhetoric — to the point of issuing a decree with the sole purpose of nullifying a decision made by the Supreme Court just a day before.
Alexander Hamilton famously said the judiciary would be the weakest branch of government, as the Supreme Court lacked “the sword and the purse” — and could not enforce or implement its own decisions. Rather, it would need to rely on respect from the other branches and the population.
When the holder of the highest office in the land openly challenges judicial decisions, it spells a bad omen for the endurance of democratic institutions.
Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:
- Beatriz Rey writes a bi-monthly column for The Brazilian Report. She is an SNF Agora Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and an APSA Congressional Fellow (2021-2022), and holds a Ph.D. in political science from Syracuse University as well as an M.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Read about the conviction of Congressman Daniel Silveira — and the subsequent decree by President Bolsonaro to pardon him. The president exercised his legal prerogative, but doing so will trigger (another) unprecedented institutional crisis.
- After Mr. Bolsonaro challenged the Supreme Court, one of Brazil’s 11 justices hinted that the president is “instructing” the Armed Forces to attack the country’s electoral system. His words didn’t sit well with the barracks.
- Congressional omission has forced Brazil’s high courts to try to control the far-right president themselves. While positive in the short term, the move can be detrimental over time.
- Columnist Beatriz Rey and editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro write that it would be disingenuous to portray former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro as two sides of the same coin. Lula has a track record of respecting democracy — which the current president lacks.
Do you have a suggestion for our next Explaining Brazil podcast? Drop us a line at [email protected]