What the reelection of Brazil’s congressional leaders means for Lula

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, February 02, 2023
What the reelection of Brazil’s congressional leaders means for Lula

The leaders of Brazil’s congress were reelected on Wednesday, with Arthur Lira from the center-right Progressistas party winning a very comfortable victory for the lower house presidency, and Rodrigo Pacheco of the centrist PSD party winning a tighter contest for the senate leadership post.

Lira's reelection was highly anticipated by political analysts and the ruling workers' party (PT) made a strategic decision not to challenge him with a candidate of their own.

In the senate, the PT supported the reelection of Pacheco as it lacked support to present a candidate.

In this interview BNamericas talks with Creomar de Souza (pictured), CEO of consulting firm Dharma Political Risk and Strategy, about what the reelection of the congressional leaders means for the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Souza also shares his view on the importance of Rogério Marinho, a former member of the Jair Bolsonaro administration who lost to Pacheco.

BNamericas: What does the reelection of Pacheco, as president of the senate and Lira, in the lower house, mean for the Lula administration?

Souza: Lula achieved what was his initial plan, having two political actors with whom he knew it was possible to establish some kind of agreement and have a minimum of decision-making stability to carry out the government's agenda.

In the case of the lower house, it is obvious that for some members of the PT there will always be that feeling that Lira was a partner of Jair Bolsonaro. However, Lira has a very important characteristic, he is a person that doesn't go back on his word once he has given it. 

Editor’s note: Since Lula's election victory in October, Lira has maintained a friendly relationship with the president and has said he will not mount opposition to the government in congress.

This generates a situation that, in a certain way, is more comfortable for Lula. However, this does not mean the government will have an easy life. But it does mean that, at least at the beginning of the government, there won't be open opposition to the executive branch from either the lower house or the senate.

BNamericas: Does this result increase the chances of tax reform approval in the coming months?

Souza: The advancement of the reform agenda is now up to the finance ministry. Minister [Fernando] Haddad has to present a tax reform proposal and congress will evaluate this proposal.

I believe that this strategy has to be well designed and there is an important issue to mention also regarding the senate’s election result.

Pacheco received 49 votes, this is exactly the minimum number of votes that a constitutional amendment needs to be approved in the senate. 

Editor’s note: The tax reform would be proposed as an amendment to the constitution

This creates a difficult scenario for the government, reinforcing the theory that the proposal has to be very well negotiated.

It is also important to mention that Rogério Marinho came out stronger politically than when he entered this election for the senate presidency, while Rodrigo Pacheco came out weaker since his candidacy lost steam and, without support from the government, would very likely have been defeated.

Haddad said he wants to present the proposed reform to congress in April and from there we will see how this will proceed. But the possibility of approving a tax reform is greater with Pacheco in the senate and Lira in the house.

BNamericas: Some analysts have suggested that congress’ more center-right composition represents a sign of balance of power between the government and congress. Do the recent events, in your opinion, show that the Lula government has more or less congressional support?

Souza: The composition of congress facilitates the advancement of the economic agenda.

Even if Rogério Marinho had been elected as president of the senate, there would not have been great difficulties in advancing the tax reform, for example.

But this configuration of congress with a center-right majority will make the possibility of advancing with economic reforms much greater than the possibility of making progress with reforms of social or moral nature. This will make the Lula government move forward on economic issues, but it will not be able to fulfill other promises.

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