Bolsonaro tempers confrontation with legislature and judiciary amidst Supreme Court probe

Last week, the Supreme Court of Brazil (‘STF’) extended the inquiry into President Bolsonaro, for political interreference in the Federal Police’s efforts to fight corruption, for an additional 30 days. In addition, the rapporteur of the probe, Judge Celso de Mello – in his last vote before retirement – defended the option for Bolsonaro to give testimony in person.

The investigation was launched in April 2020 when the popular former minister of Justice Sérgio Moro – the Lava Jato judge – accused Bolsonaro of firing the head of the Federal Police in order to obtain privileged information on a probe into his sons, Carlos Bolsonaro and Flavio Bolsonaro. The president’s sons were both accused of allegedly creating a fake-news campaign to spread misinformation.

Once the investigation into President Bolsonaro is completed, the STF will decide on whether to start an impeachment trial.

“Bolsonaro has realised that his open confrontation strategy with the legislature and the judiciary has weakened his position. Although this pleased some of his supporters, Bolsonaro has significantly softened his stance with the state powers and adopted a conciliatory tone with the judiciary. The STF investigation was crucial in Bolsonaro’s change of attitude,” explains the head of International Relations at a leading Brazilian think tank.

“Bolsonaro has realised that his open confrontation strategy with the legislators and the judiciary has weakened his position.”

Head of International Relations, Brazilian think-tank

An opposition party Senator from Paraná disagrees, “I don’t see Bolsonaro has changed. He still shows very little respect for the separation of powers. It is clear that he obstructed the Federal Police investigation, we all saw the video.” (Following Moro’s accusations, the judiciary allowed the publication of a cabinet meeting in which Bolsonaro said he wanted to intervene in the Federal Police]. The Senator added, “Despite this, he has the support of the public prosecution office so I don’t believe there will be an impeachment process.”

“[Bolsonaro] has the support of the public prosecution office so I don’t believe there will be an impeachment process.”

An opposition party Senator from Paraná

“From what we’ve seen, the STF could build a strong case against Bolsonaro. There are reasons for him to be worried. However, Bolsonaro’s recent meeting, to watch a football game, with José Antonio Dias Toffoli (former president of the STF), David Alcolumbre (president of the Senate) and Kassio Marques (Bolsonaro’s candidate to replace Celso de Mello at the STF) is almost incestuous. It really makes you question whether the STF would dare to confront Bolsonaro even if the investigation findings were conclusive against him,” commented a foreign correspondent at a European press agency specialised in judicial matters.

It doesn’t seem likely at this point that Bolsonaro will be impeached but stranger things have happened in Brazil! Watch this space.

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