Brazil President Bolsonaro’s tough 2021 balance between ideology, pragmatism

Brazil President Bolsonaro’s tough 2021 balance between ideology, pragmatism
Recent polls say Bolsonaro is roughly as popular as when he was elected. But his ratings have declined among richer and better educated Brazilians while increasing among the poor, who are receiving the government’s pandemic aid .
Brazil’s pugnacious president, Jair Bolsonaro, survived 2020 in surprisingly fine condition personally and politically, with buoyant popularity ratings despite his own bout of Covid-19 and a broader pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 of his countrymen.
But the New Year — and a looming re-election campaign — bring risks on all sides for the populist who has fought to limit environmental protections and rein in leftist influence on government and culture while feuding even with fellow conservatives in Latin America’s largest nation.

Resurgent Covid-19 has lifted Brazil’s death rate to its highest in three months, despite the president’s insistence the pandemic is truly fizzling out . His sons face corruption investigations. He has no firm block of support in congress. And he’s losing his main international unite the exit folks President Donald Trump, whose off-the-cuff rhetoric and tendency to check democratic norms had emboldened the Brazilian leader.

Perhaps most damaging is that the expiration with the New Year of a pandemic-inspired aid program that has helped debar hunger for tens of many poor Brazilians — among whom his popularity has been growing.
Bolsonaro could also be famous for breaking the principles , but he’s getting to need to be more pragmatic, said Lucas de Aragão, a partner at Brasilia-based political consultancy Arko Advice. “He’s never getting to be a president who plays by the book, but he has got to start picking his fights.”

More pragmatism starts with choosing his enemies more carefully, de Aragão said.

During the 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro’s broadsides against the political establishment and intellectual elite resonated with disaffected voters, including many moderates. He won handily, and has since maintained his confrontational tone, hammering away at congressional leaders, federal prosecutors, governors and therefore the Supreme Court — many of them people that potentially could help him get bills through congress or win reelection in 2022.
In the us , Trump held to his polarizing tone and lost. Unlike Trump, Bolsonaro doesn’t have a strong party standing behind him. As a matter of fact, since leaving the Social Liberal Party a year ago, he doesn’t have a celebration in the least — and is now trying to cobble up a working majority in congress, where a February 1 leadership vote could determine the fate of his legislative ambitions.

Bolsonaro has shown some signs of reaching out. After months of demonizing the Supreme Court as biased against him, he was photographed in October hugging Supreme Court Justice Dias Toffoli at an off-the-cuff meeting in Toffoli’s house.

The reaction illustrated his dilemma. Many of his firmest supporters turned to social media to precise their surprise, if not bewilderment.
“I got to govern,” Bolsonaro said in response to concerns raised by a supporter on his official Facebook account.

Last month’s municipal elections alarmed the Presidential Palace. Only five of the 16 mayoral candidates who Bolsonaro publicly backed won — none of them within the country’s biggest cities. Three senior officialdom told The Associated Press that the results took Bolsonaro all of sudden . “He didn’t expect to possess so little influence,” said one among the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to comment publicly.

Recent polls say Bolsonaro is roughly as popular as when he was elected. But his ratings have declined among richer and better educated Brazilians while increasing among the poor, who are receiving the government’s pandemic aid .

The end of that aid is probably going to dent the president’s popularity, said Arko’s de Aragão.

It is the sole income for quite a 3rd of these who received it, consistent with a December study by Brazilian polling institute Datafolha. As many as 70 million Brazilians ended up getting support during the health crisis, costing the govt a hefty $61 billion at a time when economists are warning of an unsustainable deficit and rising inflation.

The cutoff could leave 24 million of them in extreme poverty, International fund Director Kristalina Georgieva warned in December.

With no firm congressional bloc of his own, Bolsonaro has been courting a gaggle of centrist lawmakers referred to as the Centrao in hopes of winning leadership within the lower house of congress.
Such efforts won’t be enough to assure a majority, and if their candidate, Arthur Lira, loses, Bolsonaro will struggle to realize promised legislation, like the loosening of gun laws or opening up the Amazon rainforest to development.

The group’s support didn’t come for free of charge and Bolsonaro faces pressure to grant its members some ministerial positions –– the type of political horse trading he had promised his supporters that he would never do.

For many Bolsonaro voters, the Centrao bloc represents the type of corrupt politics the president tried to distance himself from during the campaign.

But any signs of conciliation seem to be overshadowed by Bolsonaro’s hardline stands against pandemic restrictions on gatherings and his skepticism over vaccines.
Bolsonaro, who recovered from a bout of Covid-19, has said he won’t take any of the vaccines, and has actively undermined confidence within the Chinese-made CoronaVac shot backed by Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, who is widely expected to run against Bolsonaro in 2022.

Prominent health experts and opposition lawmakers have accused the govt of dragging its feet on a national immunization program. It only presented an idea in mid-December when forced to by the Supreme Court.

With no approved vaccine ready for delivery, Latin America’s largest nation is running behind other Latin American countries.

Oliver Stuenkel, a social scientist who teaches at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo , said the president still relies heavily on polarization.

“He continues as a radical … this is often something that’s deeply embedded in his political DNA: to polarize, divide and not govern,” Stuenkel said.

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