Bolsonaro is in crisis with Congress

Few weeks ago, Bolsonaro and his family were in odds with Rodrigo Maia, the president of the House of Representatives. In response, government suffered a humiliated defeat in a vote regarding budgeting process. Critics point out that the political strategy of Bolsonaro in Congress is weak: the new administration is refusing to answer the needs of representatives and senators. However, this is not so true.

Analysing the public agendas of the government’s higher officials, we must admit that Bolsonaro and his crew were open to receive parliamentarians into their offices during the first three months of mandate. Dozens of meetings have been held with representatives and senators at Palácio do Planalto, the workplace of the Brazilian Presidency. Congressmen also have received attention by Bolsonaro’s main Ministries, like Onyx Lorenzoni and General Santos Cruz (both in charge of political relations with Congress) and even the Ministry of Finance, Paulo Guedes.

So, if it there is no lack of attention, why is Bolsonaro’s political strategy not working? There are two main reasons, both of them complimentary to each other. First, Bolsonaro refuses to “play the old politics”. According to his way of thinking, the new administration was elected to be different – this meaning that his government will not engage into quid pro quo agreements with Congressmen and the main political parties, often seen as a corruption tactics by Brazilian public opinion.

The other Bolsonaro’s political pitfall is his lack of projects. Taking apart the pension reform and the public security project designed by Sergio Moro, the Minister of Justice, the government is “a desert of ideas”, as Rodrigo Maia has said.

Without a plan of how to negotiate with Congress and also a portfolio of projects where the new parliamentarians could be engaged on, Bolsonaro is lacking political capital in the beginning of his government. It is difficult to imagine how he can take control of the agenda.

Complete version in Portuguese here.