Few would dispute the need for political renewal in Brazil. Not only is there widespread concern about formal corruption—graft, kickbacks, nepotism, and so on—it could be argued that the party system itself is corrupt. Many have therefore welcomed the emergence of new cross-party “renewal movements” in Congress, which seek to change the way politics is done. But the vote on pension reform has brought critical scrutiny, as several members of these movements turned dissidents and disobeyed their party whips. Political parties are now fighting back against lawmakers accused of having dual allegiances: to their party and to the cross-party movement.
At the center of this controversy is rookie congresswoman and rising star Tabata Amaral, one of eight Democratic Labor Party (PDT) members to vote in favor of pension reform. Acredito (“I believe”), the cross-party platform she co-founded, was recently accused of being a “clandestine party” by 2018 PDT presidential candidate Ciro Gomes. Party chairman Carlos Lupi questioned whether Ms. Amaral would be more likely to follow the decisions made at party conference or to listen to Jorge Paulo Lemann, one of Brazil’s richest men, a backer of pension reform and a supporter—through his foundation—of the young congresswoman.