Jair Bolsonaro turned his biggest political victory of the year into a defeat by resurrecting suspicions about the outcome of the elections and the possibility of a military coup. After obtaining, with the pardon of deputy Daniel Silveira, an unprecedented isolation of the ministers of the Federal Supreme Court, Bolsonaro exaggerated in the celebration of victory. He defended military intervention in the Electoral Justice and thus managed to get sectors that had moved away from the Supreme Court – such as the presidents of the Senate and Chamber – to once again unite to defend democracy, and indirectly attack Bolsonaro.
Baptized as a “civic act for freedom of expression”, broadcast live by state-owned TV Brasil, the ceremony at Palácio do Planalto was organized by members of the evangelical bench to flatter Bolsonaro. In the speech, the president said that there is a suspicion about the elections. “They don’t think that (an eventual fraud) would only be for the president. That would be for the Senate, for the House, if there’s anything abnormal,” he speculated. According to him, the Armed Forces want to have access to the voting data to carry out an investigation parallel to that of the Justice. “One of the suggestions (from the FFAA) is that, [com] this same duct that feeds the computers in the secret room, a branch is made a little to the right so that we also have a computer from the Armed Forces on our side to count the votes in Brazil”, he declared. “They (the TSE ministers) invited the Armed Forces to participate in the electoral process. Have they forgotten that the supreme chief of the Armed Forces is called Bolsonaro?”, said the president.
As in the fable, the scorpion’s nature is to sting the frog, even if both drown.
The idea that generals can decide whether the TSE’s investigation is consistent with reality scared the president’s greatest allies, the Centrão politicians. After all, Centrão’s power derives from respect for the Legislature. If the generals can decide whether or not Bolsonaro won the elections, the next step is to choose who will or will not be in Congress. Centrão politicians know the risk they run.
On Thursday (28), the president of the TSE, Edson Fachin, spoke by phone with presidents Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco. Afterwards, the congressmen met in person with ministers Gilmar Mendes, Dias Toffoli, Ricardo Lewandowski and Alexandre de Moraes. As reported by reporter Thais Arbex, from CNN Brasil, the conversation was tough. A minister reminded the heads of the Legislature that it was the STF that gave politics back to politicians, in a reference to the end of the anti-political hysteria caused by Operation Car Wash.
The conversation reached a consensus. Legally, Bolsonaro has the right to pardon Daniel Silveira for his crimes, but using that as a pretext to resume threats of military intervention is going over the top. As in Guimarães Rosa’s aphorism, the frogs Pacheco and Lira do not release for beauty, but for precision.
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On the same day, Pacheco declared that “institutions and society can be convinced of the normality of the electoral process. The Electoral Justice is efficient and the electronic voting machines are reliable. Even so, the TSE is committed to providing full transparency to the process from now on, including the participation of the Senate”. “The Brazilian electoral process is a reference. To think differently is to question the legitimacy of all of us, elected, in all spheres. Let’s move on – without tensions – to free and transparent elections”, said Lira.
On Friday (29), three STF ministers spoke. “There is no moderating power to intervene in the Electoral Justice. Collaboration, cooperation and, therefore, proactive partnerships for improvement, the Electoral Justice is entirely at your disposal. Intervention, never”, said Edson Fachin.
Alexandre Moraes was less subtle. “I am absolutely sure that vain threats, attempted coercion, none of this will frighten any electoral judge in the country. We will have a transparent and secure election. The population can be sure: in December, those chosen by the people will graduate. It doesn’t matter who”.
Asked if he could close the fake news inquiry as a form of truce with Bolsonaro, Moraes denied it. “We are reaching out to all the financiers (of the fake news dissemination machine). People don’t understand that the investigation has its public moment and it has its secret moment, which most of the time is the most important, when you go on sewing the illicit activities that the Federal Police are investigating,” he said. The investigations show the existence of a pyramid of entrepreneurs who donated, via slush fund, millions of reais per month to finance Bolsonaro’s digital machine.
More restrained, Ricardo Lewandowski, who will be vice-president of the TSE, stated that “there is no political group today with the power to destabilize institutions. I don’t see any problem of a danger to the elections. We will have to hold the elections and find out the result without any problem”.
The fact that the three ministers spoke after the presidents of the Houses shows that Bolsonaro’s action rebuilt a broken coordination. When Bolsonaro forgave Silveira, the president of the Senate was the first to say that he had that right and Lira stood by him because he considered that the arrest of a deputy is exclusive to Congress. On Monday (25), the isolation of the STF seemed beneficial to most deputies. After Bolsonaro’s coup speech, the picture changed.
Until Friday (29), it was not clear whether the president intended to go to the celebration of the First of May on Avenida Paulista, organized by the most radical cells of Bolsonarism. It was in Paulista, on Sete de Setembro, that Bolsonaro called Alexandre de Moraes a “scoundrel”, promised not to comply with STF decisions and defended intervention in court. He backed off after realizing he had no support and was forced to hand over the core of government to Centrão. The truce lasted less than eight months.
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