Elections 2022: Brazil offers parliamentarians a transfer window to change parties (yes, like in football) | International

A group of deputies speaks in the Brazilian Congress, on February 17.
A group of deputies speaks in the Brazilian Congress, on February 17.Douglas Gomes Photography (BRAZIL CONGRESS)

These are frenetic days for the Brazilian deputies who aspire to be re-elected in seven months. Now is the time for a crucial political calculation, to decide whether to try from the current party or move, without losing the seat, to another that offers better options. Because, in Brazil, there is a parliamentary transfer window in the style of those that allow soccer players to be bought and sold each season. The so-called party window – one month at the end of the legislature – is open. The 513 federal deputies and the thousands of state deputies have until April 1 to sign for a new acronym before starting the campaign for the legislative (and presidential) elections in October.

Sixteen new deputies landed in the Liberal Party in recent days following President Bolsonaro, who recently joined because he had been without a party for two years and needs one to stand for election. Many more signings are expected as the deadline runs out. The elected have been making calculations for months, pending the movements of allies and adversaries, drawing up strategies. In recent years, there have been no less than 275 removals under this window.

The political scientist Talita Tanscheit, from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, explains that this partisan window “is a fundamental element” of Brazilian politics because “it allows political arrangements to configure the candidacies, the coalitions, to decide which presidential candidate to support.” …”. All this implies that, seven months before the elections, “the portrait of Congress can change notably, unlike other countries,” warns the researcher.

The main reason to sign for a new party is to increase the chances of re-election. Ideological factors or the program have little weight. “The PSOE and the PP in Spain are antagonistic, but here in Brazil there are many parties that are very similar. It is not that one leaves the Workers’ Party (of Lula da Silva) to the Bolsonaro party”, points out the political scientist. Those right-wing parties without ideology that are so similar is where the changes are most intense. They are the most powerful element in a Congress with 30 formations, many of them tiny.

Known as the center (the great center), is a constellation of acronyms that constantly change names, become friends or enemies. As the columnist Carlos Pereira recently explained in the newspaper stadiumBrazilian parties function, with rare exceptions, “as associations that maximize the political and survival interests of their members”.

Tanscheit rejects that the party window, created in 2015, is the officialization of turncoat because once installed in a political home, “party discipline is very high.” But until then they court and allow themselves to be courted.

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Negotiations between pre-candidates and parties are an infernal sudoku because countless factors intervene among which ideology is secondary. Brazil is a huge country, impossible to govern without alliances, and where local politics has enormous weight. And it will also elect at the same time the president, the Chamber of Deputies, part of the Senate, governors and state deputies. So Brazilian politics these weeks is a huge chessboard with all the pieces in motion where you can’t take your eyes off the rest of the players and each step of anyone in one direction or another affects many other pieces.

The man Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wants as number two to kick Bolsonaro out of power is Geraldo Alckmin, a veteran of the center-right whom he defeated in a presidential election 16 years ago. Alckim has just left his lifelong formation, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and these days he must clarify in which formation he settles.

Bolsonaro himself is an example of how usual it is to change formation. In three decades of career, he militates in his ninth party. Of course, with one or another acronym, he has never neglected the soldiers and military policemen whose corporate interests he has always considered a priority.

The PL, to which Bolsonaro joined in November after failing in his attempt to create one to suit him, is one of the parties of the center. In 2018, the far-right disputed the elections for one of the so-called rental acronyms, controlled by a cacique. About a year he was in that political home. Many of the deputies elected in the Bolsonarista wave are following the president in moving him to a party of the old politics that they reviled so much.

Moving to a party with more parliamentarians also means a larger chunk of the pool of public money that finances election campaigns since corporate donations were banned. With its back to a Brazilian electorate hit by inflation and unemployment, Congress has approved an item of almost 5,000 million reais (960 million euros), which is three times more than the last general elections.

The Government will also undergo a metamorphosis shortly. By April 2, the ministers who attend the next elections have to leave office. It is estimated that a third will leave the office to hit the roads in search of votes.

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