After being president, fate is unclear for Brazil’s Bolsonaro

BRASILIA, Brazil — Jair Bolsonaro told supporters that the future could offer him only three possibilities: being arrested, killed or a second term as Brazil’s president.

None of those outcomes occurred. And his October 30 loss to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva set off two months of relative silence for the self-proclaimed standard-bearer of the Brazilian conservative movement.

Bolsonaro’s often-cited motto is “God, Family, Country,” and as president he has given more power to the armed forces and eased gun restrictions. Many of Bolsonaro’s far-right supporters remain under his control and have camped outside military buildings, begging in vain for military intervention to keep the president in power. .

But Bolsonaro has authorized his chief of staff to preside over the transition, and moving trucks have begun showing up at the presidential palace and residence. Personal items were found stolen, especially artwork given as gifts by supporters – including life-size wooden sculptures of Bolsonaro and a motorcycle.

A lawmaker on the sidelines of seven terms before winning the presidential campaign in 2018, Bolsonaro discussed keeping a paid position in his Liberal Party, an executive Party involved in the discussions told the Associated Press, requesting anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

Bolsonaro spoke to supporters in the capital Brasilia once after he lost the vote, briefly saying the armed forces were under his control. The second time, he stood in silence as supporters prayed for him.

Some supporters insist that Bolsonaro will not let them down by giving up the fight, but others have already begun to leave key sites. According to Bolsonaro’s official daily agenda, he worked just over an hour a day from the election until December 23.

The Liberals will be the largest party in both the House and Senate. The party moderator said they had declared their opposition to Lula’s incoming government and that Bolsonaro is expected to lead the effort within the party.

Guilherme Casarões, political analyst and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, said many members of the Liberal Party are neither entirely loyal to Bolsonaro nor ideologically aligned with him, and they will be motivated to work with the new administration. The Liberal Party is considered central and is known for making deals with the incumbent government.

That makes it harder to maintain the ideological loyalty that Bolsonaro wants to maintain, says Casarões. “If he doesn’t manage to have full control of the Liberal Party, we will see a new split.”

Eduardo Grin, political analyst and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, said Bolsonaro received 49 percent of the presidential vote, boosting his chances of running for president in 2026 and making him an ally. for candidates in the 2024 municipal elections.

However, Grin notes that there is a history of strong Brazilian candidates failing to maintain support in the following years. And the governors of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, Brazil’s two most populous states, may prove more affordable options for conservative voters.

The customary final act for outgoing presidents is to hand over the presidential belt to a successor. Bolsonaro’s office did not respond to requests for comment on whether he attended Lula’s inauguration.

The last time a president refused to hand over a belt was in 1985, marking the end of the nation’s two-decade-long military dictatorship and the return of democracy.

Either way, the inauguration will deal a blow to Bolsonaro’s supporters, said analyst Mario Sérgio Lima, from Medley Advisors.

“As his supporters get used to radicalism, they are expecting purification. When they see Lula being sworn in, they will feel betrayed, like he (Bolsonaro) has power in his hands and does nothing,” Lima said. “For them, it’s a sign of weakness.”

Bolsonaro also faces swirling legal threats. The Supreme Court is investigating him on suspicion of spreading illegal lies on topics including COVID-19 vaccines, Supreme Court justices, revealing confidential information from a ongoing investigation and unauthorized interference with the Federal Police. The Supreme Court is the only government agency that can investigate a sitting president or federal legislator.

As of January 1, Bolsonaro will no longer enjoy the legal protections of incumbent leaders and could face new charges in lower courts. After Lula was found guilty by lower courts of corruption and money laundering in 2018, he was disqualified from running for president that year and spent more than a year in prison. His sentence was later dropped on the grounds that he was tried in a court without proper jurisdiction.

“But Lula has a whole team behind him to revive him again, and that is not the case with Bolsonaro,” Lima said, adding that Bolsonaro will struggle to maintain fighting allies. for his own cause.

And any eventual conviction could jeopardize Bolsonaro’s ability to return to his old job in 2026, alongside all the other challenges he faces.

“The political fate of Bolsonaro and the far right of Brazil is more fraught than it seems,” Grin said. “There will be more difficulties than easy.”

Associated Press writer Diane Jeantet contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.


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