Bolsonarism, institutionalized?

. Nov 22, 2019
Bolsonaro supporter new party Jair Bolsonaro and supporters. Photo: Carolina Antunes/PR

Brazil has 33 legally registered parties. While some host authoritarian and nationalist politicians, none of these political groups are overtly far-right organizations. That picture will soon change after President Jair Bolsonaro launched his own party on Thursday, the so-called “Alliance for Brazil.” With the bold plan of being “not just a new party, but the greatest party in Brazilian history,” this political family in the making is full of extremist symbols.

</p> <p>The name itself is a nod to the National Renewal Alliance, the ersatz &#8220;political party&#8221; of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. On the country&#8217;s electronic voting machines, the party intends to be represented by the code &#8220;38,&#8221; in reference to the .38 S&amp;W revolver. Before the new party&#8217;s convention on Thursday, supporters lined up to take photos with a commemorative plaque for the Alliance, made entirely out of bullet casings and weighing some 50 kilos.</p> <p>The Alliance for Brazil&#8217;s core values will be religious principles, frontal opposition to gun control, and ultra-neoliberalism. &#8220;A conservative party that respects all religions, family values, the right to self-defense—and the right to bear firearms with conditions—and free trade,&#8221; said Mr. Bolsonaro to his ecstatic supporters.</p> <p>The event, held at a luxury Brasília hotel close to the president&#8217;s official residence, was typical of many pro-Bolsonaro rallies. Chants that &#8220;Brazil&#8217;s flag will never be red,&#8221; insults toward the press, and politically incorrect jokes were the bread and butter for what was a sizeable crowd.&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="768" src="" alt="New party: Commemorative plaque made out of bullet shells reads &quot;Alliance for Brazil.&quot; Photo: Brenno Grillo/TBR" class="wp-image-27976" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1040w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Commemorative plaque made out of bullet shells reads &#8220;Alliance for Brazil.&#8221; Photo: Brenno Grillo/TBR</figcaption></figure> <h2>Political viability</h2> <p>The Alliance for Brazil is an attempt to institutionalize Bolsonarism as a mainstream political force. And, for that matter, the party would begin life holding the highest office in the land. But it remains unclear if the group will be allowed to run in the 2020 municipal elections.</p> <p>As we explained in a <a href="">November 5 article</a>, parties must be registered six months before election day. In order for the Alliance for Brazil to be fit for the polls, Mr. Bolsonaro must go through the arduous bureaucratic process of finalizing the party&#8217;s creation, which includes gathering the physical signatures of 500,000 voters from at least nine different states. These signatures will then need to be verified one by one, and time is running out before the municipal election cutoff point.</p> <p>And, of course, the Alliance for Brazil will have to dodge the legal challenges that his previous party—the Social Liberal Party—plans to make at every turn.</p> <p>But his chances cannot be underestimated. Perhaps unlike any other new party, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s group enjoys substantial support from religious groups, which can use churches to gather the required signatures.</p> <p>As simplistic as Mr. Bolsonaro may seem to political observers, he is a major force to be reckoned with. As political scientist Bruno Carazza <a href="">wrote</a>, if former President Lula claims he is &#8220;no longer a human, but rather an idea,&#8221; the same can be said of Mr. Bolsonaro. So far, he is the Brazilian politician who is most skilled at capitalizing on the population&#8217;s frustrations with the political class.</p> <p>Near singlehandedly, Mr. Bolsonaro transformed his previous party from an irrelevant blip on the electoral map to becoming the second-largest bench in Congress. With Lula out of jail and almost monopolizing reports from Brazil by the international press, the president&#8217;s power to galvanize supporters may be enhanced. Political scientist Paulo Kramer, who was Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s political advisor during the campaign, says the creation of this party will be a &#8220;true test of the president&#8217;s ability to mobilize people in the real world, not only on social media.&#8221;</p> <p>But the institutionalization of the Alliance for Brazil into something more than the president&#8217;s party depends on multiple factors. Political scientist Christian Lohbauer is skeptical of the group&#8217;s capacity to evolve into a true political force. &#8220;Nothing that was shown relates to what we know as conservative thinking or right-wing economics. It is Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s party, period. If he were to vanish tomorrow, the party would fall.&#8221;</p> <h2>Shuffling the spectrum</h2> <p>Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s party could force a realignment between other political parties. Mr. Kramer says that, with the president imploding the government&#8217;s coalition, several right-wing parties could decide to merge in order to counter him.</p> <p>The Social Liberal Party is already in talks with House Speaker Rodrigo Maia&#8217;s Democratas party, and other peripheral groups could join in. &#8220;For years, parties shied away from calling themselves &#8216;right-wing&#8217;. The label was associated with the military regime. But, now, the meaning of what is right-wing ideology is changing in Brazil. And many parties are rethinking how they call themselves.&#8221;</p> <h2>Why far-right?</h2> <p>As editor-in-chief Gustavo Ribeiro stated on our <a href="">November 22 Daily Briefing</a>, calling Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s new party far-right is by no means an editorial decision—instead, it is a judgment following concepts from political science.&nbsp;</p> <p>As proposed by Andreas Dafnos, a researcher on far-right groups in the UK at Sheffield University, a far-right group is constituted by &#8220;the amalgamation of three ideological characteristics: nationalism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism.&#8221;</p> <p>(1) Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s campaign slogan starts with &#8220;Brazil above everything.&#8221; (2) The president has <a href="">called refugees</a> &#8220;the scum of the earth.&#8221; (3) For as long as he has been in public office, Mr. Bolsonaro has defended right-wing dictators, such as Chile&#8217;s Augusto Pinochet.&nbsp;</p> <p>Check, check, and check.

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Brenno Grillo

Brenno has worked as a journalist since 2012, specializing in coverage related to law and the justice system. He has worked for O Estado de S. Paulo, Portal Brasil, ConJur, and has experience in political campaigns.

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