Uncertain future for Bolsonaro after the presidency

BRASILIA (HPD) — Jair Bolsonaro told supporters that the future could hold only three possibilities: arrest, death or a second term as Brazil’s president.

None of those scenarios came to fruition. And his defeat on October 30 against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva marked the beginning of two months of relative silence for the self-proclaimed standard bearer of the Brazilian conservative movement.

Bolsonaro’s motto is “Dios, Familia, Patria”, and as president he granted more powers to the armed forces and lifted restrictions on gun ownership. Many of his far-right supporters still enthusiastically follow him and have camped out in front of military barracks, begging to no avail that the military intervene to keep him in office.

But Bolsonaro has authorized his chief of staff to lead the transition process, and moving trucks have already arrived at the palace and presidential residence. Some personal items have been removed, notably art objects donated by supporters, including life-size wooden sculptures of Bolsonaro and a motorcycle.

Bolsonaro, who was a lawmaker for seven terms before winning the 2018 presidential campaign, has discussed the possibility of holding a salaried position in his Liberal Party, a PL executive with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press. who asked to remain anonymous as the plans have not been publicly announced.

Bolsonaro addressed supporters in the capital Brasilia after losing the election, briefly telling them that the armed forces were under his control. On a second occasion, he was silent as a group of supporters prayed for him.

Some of his supporters insist that Bolsonaro will not disappoint them by stopping the fight, but others have begun to leave the camps. According to the official presidential agenda, the outgoing president has only worked a little more than an hour each day since the elections until December 23.

The Liberal Party will be the one with the greatest presence both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. He has declared his opposition to the incoming Lula government and Bolsonaro is expected to lead the effort within the party, the PL executive said.

But many members of the Liberal Party are not totally loyal to Bolsonaro or ideologically aligned with him, and will have incentives to work with the new government, observed Guilherme Casarões, a political analyst and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo. The PL is considered centrist and is known for reaching agreements with the government in power.

“That makes it more difficult to have the ideological fidelity that Bolsonaro likes to maintain,” Casarões said. “If he doesn’t get full control over the Liberal Party, we’re going to see a new split.”

Bolsonaro received 49% of the votes in the presidential elections, fueling the possibility that he will decide to run for president in 2026 and advise candidates in the 2024 municipal elections, said Eduardo Grin, a political analyst and professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

However, Grin noted that there is a history of strong Brazilian candidates failing to maintain substantial support in subsequent years. And the governors of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, Brazil’s two most populous states, could be more attractive options for conservative voters.

The customary final act for outgoing presidents is to hand over the presidential sash to his successor. Bolsonaro’s office did not respond to requests for comment about whether he will attend Lula’s inauguration.

The last time a president declined to hand over the band was in 1985, the year the country ended two decades of military dictatorship and returned to democracy.

Either way, the inauguration will be a blow to Bolsonaro supporters, said analyst Mario Sérgio Lima of economic advisory firm Medley Advisors.

“Because their supporters are used to radicalism, they hope there will be a catharsis. When they see Lula being sworn in, they will feel betrayed; (a feeling of) that (Bolsonaro) had power in his hands and did nothing,” Lima noted. “For them it’s a sign of weakness.”

Bolsonaro also faces a spiral of legal threats. He is being investigated by the Federal Supreme Court on suspicion of illegally spreading lies about topics including COVID-19 vaccines and high court judges, disclosing confidential information from an ongoing investigation, and improperly interfering with the Federal Police. The STF is the only government body that can investigate a sitting president or federal legislator.

As of January 1, Bolsonaro will no longer enjoy the immunity that sitting rulers enjoy, and could face new charges in lower courts. After Lula was found guilty of corruption and money laundering by lower courts in 2018, he was deemed ineligible to run in that year’s presidential election and spent more than a year in jail. His convictions were later annulled on the grounds that he was tried in a court that lacked proper jurisdiction.

“But Lula had a whole party behind him to push him back (to the presidency), and that is not the case with Bolsonaro,” Lima declared, noting that it will be difficult for Bolsonaro to keep allies fighting for his cause. .

And any potential guilty plea could jeopardize Bolsonaro’s possible presidential run in 2026, in addition to all the other challenges he faces.

“The political destiny of Bolsonaro and the extreme right in Brazil faces more obstacles than it seems,” Grin declared. “There will be more difficulties than ease.”

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

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