President Jair Bolsonaro and Speaker Rodrigo Maia present the pension reform bill

Back in October, the 58 million votes that propelled Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency had a clear wish, over several different platforms: his supporters demanded a rupture with the way politics has been done in the past. Taking on this idea of disruption, Mr. Bolsonaro has reorganized his cabinet, clashed with Brazilian realpolitik, and redefined the way the president uses social media—for better or for worse.

During his first 100 days in power, Mr. Bolsonaro had to deal with some unprecedented circumstances, such as a third surgery to recover from his stabbing in September 2018, and the most deadly environmental disaster in the country’s history. The unusual situation was coupled with an extended period of inertia in Congress, due to the Carnival holidays coming later this year, in March. This kept analysts and the population in “wait and see” mode over the government’s first months.

However, by now, the government’s frailties have been more than exposed. So far, two cabinet ministers have been fired amid government crises, Mr. Bolsonaro party has changed its leadership in the House, and the president has seen unprecedented low popular support for a new head of state in his first three months. But, after all, is this the price to pay for disruption? How long is it going to take for the government to put itself together? Is chaos the new politics?

To answer these and other questions, The Brazilian Report reached out to some of the most respected Brazilian experts in politics, economy, and society. Through diverse opinions, we can try to understand the present and warn about trends that may trace the future of the Jair Bolsonaro administration.

The Bolsonaro way of doing politics

The involvement of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons in government affairs has only increased since the elections, something is unprecedented in Brazil since its return to democracy. Flávio Bolsonaro, the president’s eldest son, dragged the government’s image through the dirt during its first days in office, due to the suspicions of illicit enrichment against his advisor Fabrício Queiroz, and links to urban militias in Rio de Janeiro.

Eduardo Bolsonaro is taking on a more prominent role in foreign affairs and Carlos Bolsonaro’s social media activity has led to the dismissal of a cabinet minister and a clash with the Congress. Their behavior is drawing criticism from both allies and the opposition, but so far it does not seem that the president is willing to get in their way.

What to expect

“There have been ups and downs. The family relationship does not seem totally under control and I don’t think it will be. Depending on the political timing, his sons attack and retreat, but they tend to respect their father’s thoughts. They are very aligned as a political clan.” Leandro Gabiati, political scientist and director at Dominium consultancy.

“The family involvement is relevant as long as it is to support their father in what he wants for the country. If it is used to approve the reform, it could be great.” Thiago de Aragão, political analyst and partner at Arko Advice, a consultancy firm.

The first defeat

In a demonstration of strength amid the crisis with the government, House representatives decided that the administration must honor investments proposed by lawmakers, which can currently be deferred to future budgets. In the Senate, the government managed to make the measure more gradual, but it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Without space to manage the budget, the government may either disobey the federal spending cap, or there will be a government shutdown.

What to expect

“This measure just adds pressure to approve the pension bill, otherwise the accounts do not add up. If you total all the social security spending, it’s a huge part of the budget, and then you are forced to fulfill investments, it is obvious that it will substantially reduce any margins left to develop public policies. Approving the pension reform becomes way more urgent, relevant and much tougher.” Marcio Holland, Ph.D. in Economics, professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas,

Musical chairs

Gustavo Bebbiano, one of the president’s most loyal party members and a cabinet minister lost his job after an electoral scandal in Jair Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL). The trigger, however, was pulled by Carlos Bolsonaro, who called the minister a liar on Twitter, only to see Mr. Bebbiano retorting with several leaked audios which proved he did in fact tell the truth. The Ministry of Education has become a source of trouble after a series of controversies and Ricardo Vélez Rodríguez was dismissed on Monday, becoming the second cabinet minister to fall in such a short space of time.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni appears ineffective when it comes to political negotiations and PSL’s leadership in Congress is not making much progress to form a cohesive front. The party launched an alternative, making newly-elected member of Congress Joice Hasselmann the new PSL leader in the legislature.

What to expect

“Mr. Lorenzoni has important political experience, but many lawmakers who knew him previously thought he would not have the status to be a negotiator. Ms. Hasselmann is more inclined to conflict than negotiation, I’m not sure if that was a good idea. But the whole point is that the negotiator’s power to make promises comes from the president. So far, the government did not give signs that it is willing to talk. It does not want to do politics. Unfortunately, signals from conversations in Brasilia suggest there are no expectations that it will change.” Leandro Gabiati.

A general under the captain’s command

While Mr. Bolsonaro has constantly involved himself in controversy, his vice president, four-star Army general Hamilton Mourão, has positioned himself as a more moderate and pragmatic figure. However, the stark contrast was enough to create rumors of insubordination inside the palace walls.

What to expect

“Mr. Mourão is a protagonist due to his personal qualities, such as his analytical mind. His role is essential in turbulent times when people can see there’s someone more moderate. If well used, this may be a strength for the government.” Thiago de Aragão.

“There is an open war between the president and his vice. It keeps raging on and there is no easy solution for it. I believe this conflict is and will continue to be one of the largest dramas during Bolsonaro’s administration.” Matias Spektor, author and vice-dean of Fundação Getulio Vargas’ International Affairs School.

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BY Natália Tomé Scalzaretto

Natália Tomé Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from TradersClub investor community.