The Slow Implosion of Brazilian Politics – The Atlantic

6 months ago Comments Off on The Slow Implosion of Brazilian Politics – The Atlantic

Something is rotten in the world’s fourth-largest democracy. And it raises a fundamental question for any democratic country: How do you design a political system to maximize good government and marginalize bad?

Yes, the recent vote in Brazil’s lower house of Congress to impeach President Dilma Rousseff was an exercise in democracy, strictly speaking. (The upper house votes next.) The lawmakers who joyously bobbed up and down as the decisive ballots were cast, as if at a soccer match, echoed the vast majority of Brazilians, who want to boot Rousseff from office for steering the economy into recession, appearing to abide if not abet corruption, and allegedly hiding a government budget deficit ahead of her 2014 reelection campaign. Those lawmakers claim the last charge amounts to a “crime of responsibility,” the gravest of political offenses, under the Constitution.

And yet, as The New York Times reports, 60 percent of the 594 members of Brazil’s Congress who will ultimately vote on Rousseff’s impeachment are themselves facing or under investigation for “serious charges like bribery, electoral fraud, illegal deforestation, kidnapping and homicide, according to Transparency Brazil, a corruption-monitoring group.” (Sitting lawmakers generally enjoy immunity from prosecution in regular courts; they can only be tried in the plodding, overwhelmed Supreme Federal Court.) The congressional pot is calling the presidential kettle black, except that the pot is much bigger and darker.

As one Brazilian journalist told the Times, Rousseff is being judged by “a gang of thieves.”

Standing most prominently in judgment is the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, home to more members of Congress under investigation than any other political party, according to Transparency Brazil. Vice President Michel Temer, who will replace Rousseff if she is impeached, could himself be impeached over the same budgetary maneuvers haunting Rousseff. Temer is a member of the PMDB. So is House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is leading the impeachment campaign against Rousseff and is second in line for her seat; he’s accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes as part of an epic corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras. Third in line for the presidency is Renan Calheiros, the Senate president, who is also under investigation for taking bribes in the Petrobras scandal. Calheiros belongs to—surprise!—the PMDB.

The Slow Implosion of Brazilian Politics – The Atlantic