February 21, 2019

Bolsonaro's Election Is No Cause For Despair

“Reactions to the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the Brazilian presidency range from alarmism to outright hysteria. As an apologist for the military dictatorship, a defender of torture, and proponent of a shoot-to-kill policy against suspected criminals, Bolsonaro’s rupture with the political norms that have governed Brazil for the last 30 years has made him the most controversial candidate since the restoration of democracy in the mid-1980s. But Brazil, and the world, should not be panicked.

Brazil’s democratic institutions are resilient, capable of weathering the Bolsonaro storm and curtailing some of his worst vices, and in the “Tropical Trump” analogy frenzy that has accompanied Bolsonaro’s victory, too many facts are being ignored. First, the 1988 Constitution emulates the American Constitution. Like the U.S. founding document, it includes strong checks and balances and three independent branches of government which can overrule one another, thus ensuring a diffusion of power.

Second, as he transitions from the poetry of campaigning to the prose of governing, Bolsonaro will face a multiparty Congress too fractured to easily pass his legislative agenda. As a member of a minority bloc, he faces the onerous task of building and maintaining a multiparty coalition — a mind-bogglingly complex endeavor in Brazil. Even after gaining 44 seats this year, Bolsonaro’s contingent holds 52 in a chamber of 513. They are outnumbered in the lower house by the Workers’ Party, whose presidential candidate lost to Bolsonaro by 10 percent.”

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