Brazilian Democracy in its Labyrinth

By Emir Sader on September 17, 2021 from Rio de Janeiro


Brazil is experiencing a profound crisis of political representation, in which the mass of the population does not feel represented by its parties, by the political system and by the State itself. It is a crisis of political and ideological hegemony.

A situation that was brought about by the new breakdown of democracy in 2016. Brazil had lived almost 20 years of political democracy, from 1945 until the coup of 1964. It had a dictatorship for 21 years, from 1964 to 1985. A transition from 1985 to 1990 and a new democratic period from 1990 to 2016 – 26 years.

In total, in 76 years, the country has experienced 46 years of political democracy, 21 years of dictatorship, to which are now added another five years of authoritarianism, in a total of 26 years of absence of democracy.

What characterizes the current period is the crisis of representation, both of the State and of the political system as a whole, as well as of the political parties. The party system, resurgent in the democratic transition, is entering a deep crisis.

The MDB, the DEM and the PSDB, the traditional right and center parties, were exhausted. They lost representation, political strength and projects for the country.

The PT is the only representative party at the national level. It went through a difficult period when it was victim of the 2016 coup and the arrest of Lula. But it fully recovered with the recovery of Lula’s rights and returned to a strengthening process, occupying the center of the opposition forces in the country.

The political system was demoralized with the coup that prevented Dilma from governing her second term, for which she had been reelected. Temer’s government was an illegitimate government, the result of a coup and not of a popular vote. Policies approved in four democratic elections were reversed. The political system and the government lost legitimacy and representation.

The 2016 elections were the institutionalization of the loss of legitimacy of the political system, with the illegal exclusion of Lula, favorite to win in the first round. And with the campaign driven by fake news and other illegal forms of manipulation that led Bolsonaro to a new illegitimate presidency. The political system lost any force of legitimacy, failing to democratically represent Brazilians.

Bolsonaro came to destroy the old politics, to end corruption, to liquidate the Workers Party (PT), to reduce the State to its minimum proportion, to purify the economy, to unite the right, to project a new leadership in Brazil.

Today all that has evaporated. He practices the most clumsy barter politics with the parties in Congress. Still, it is not enough. The more he gives in, the weaker he becomes, the more he has to give in, the more he depends on these parties, which charge higher and higher prices.

By trying to use the Centrão to his advantage, Bolsonaro becomes a prisoner of the Centrao; a group of parties that play the exchange of favors to avoid impeachment in Congress. But as time goes by it needs to think about the survival of each congressman, who are beginning to look at the 2022 elections and calculate the burden of campaigning with the weight of Bolsonaro on their back. It begins to discuss impeachment, even if it is to increase Bolsonaro’s price.

The Centrão tends to withdraw and leave the government completely vulnerable to impeachment and, above all, doomed to electoral defeat in 2022 when the illusion of Bolsonaro’s reelection will end once and for all.

If he was the candidate chosen to defeat the PT, the failure of Bolsonaro’s government is at the same time the strengthening of the PT and the new favoritism of Lula to be elected president of Brazil.

The possibility of the economy entering a period of recovery has been exhausted. On the contrary Rising inflation and political uncertainties points to stagflation for 2022.

With the government project exhausted, Bolsonaro raises the tone of his threats, as he did on September 7, with terrible repercussions for himself. Re-election seems less and less possible and he is left only with the path of institutional rupture.

Brazil’s future depends on the 2022 elections. Either this rupture and the affirmation of a militarily armored authoritarianism or the rescue of democracy, with the defeat and overthrow of the regime that emerged in the 2016 coup.

Source: Pagina 12, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English