August has seen a spectacular increase in political tensions in Brazil, as hostilities between President Jair Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court (“STF”) magistrates reached new heights.
An international relations professor in São Paulo sets the scene, “Tensions between Bolsonaro and the judiciary have been evident for the last couple of years but it has recently turned into a full blown institutional crisis.” The director of a lobbying firm in Brasilia shared the same view, “Bolsonaro has crossed so many red lines, the current institutional crises cannot be fixed. Politics can be unpredictable but I see no rational, or even unexpected, event that could lead to a truce between state powers.”
“Tensions between Bolsonaro and the judiciary have been evident for the last couple of years but it has recently turned into a full blown institutional crisis.”
International relations professor, São Paulo
On 12 August, STF magistrate Alexandre de Moraes launched an inquiry into Bolsonaro for posting documents on social media related to the hacking of a federal electoral court. The President used the post to suggest that the Brazilian electronic voting system has been persistently marred by fraud, without proof.
Bolsonaro responded to the opening of the probe with a request to the Senate to impeach Alexandre de Moraes, accusing him of hindering free speech in Brazil. Rodrigo Pacheco, President of the Senate and a Bolsonaro ally said that he registered the President’s request but that he did not see political or technical grounds to impeach Alexandre de Moraes.
Disappointed with the outcome of the events, Bolsonaro refused to back down his criticism of the electoral system and said in a rally that he only contemplated three alternatives for his future: being arrested, killed or re-elected. These comments were made after Bolsonaro threatened to cancel the 2022 presidential elections and called for citizens to buy arms and for the military police corps to defend the nation.
Tensions are such that the Brazilian Federation of Banks (“Febraban”) has issued a statement stressing the importance of harmony and a good relationship between the government, the Congress and the judicial system. Brazilian business leaders are increasingly taking an open stance against Bolsonaro as the country’s GDP outlook has worsened for 2021 and 2022 with respective 5.22% and 2% expected growth.
The international relations professor explained that the government’s relation with businesses had been broken for some time, “Businesses lost confidence in Bolsonaro long ago, it was completely broken by his handling of the pandemic and is now irreparable, I think.” The lobbyist confirms, “My clients have a total lack of confidence in Bolsonaro and would actually welcome Lula as the lesser evil which is remarkable given their historical views.”
“My clients have a total lack of confidence in Bolsonaro and would actually welcome Lula as the lesser evil which is remarkable given their historical views.”
Director, lobbying firm, Brasilia
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro’s popularity ratings continue to plunge. Polls continue to show that former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva would win by a landslide in a runoff with Bolsonaro. In recent weeks, Lula has extended his lead over Bolsonaro showing that a second term vote between both would see Lula having a 55% of the votes while Bolsonaro would get 30%.
The professor concluded, “It’s hard to imagine that Bolsonaro will win re-election in 2022, but this is Brazil, it would be hard to imagine a sitting president calling an STF magistrate a ‘son-of-a-w***e’ while tanks paraded in front of Congress, but it happened!” The lobbyist looked further out, “There is no chance for Bolsonaro in 2022 but some people may buy his electoral fraud discourse and he could use that as a platform to return in 2026.”