Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Congressional leaders and factions in Brazil have now perceived that Dilma is no longer the President, in the sense that she has ceased to preside over anything. To defend her dysfunctional presidency, she has barricaded herself behind circled wagons, whose canvas covers are red, adorned with the hammer and sickle.
Her last hope for salvation — the once and future (he hopes) President Lula — now sorely wounded in his Achilles heel, has given up the struggle.
The spoils system, introduced and perfected by President Lula to control Congress, has now become ineffective. Members of Congress offered positions as ministers, or whose protégés are offered second echelon posts by Lula/Dilma, have almost all said they need some time to consider.
Congress, in essence, has decided that it, and not the Brazilian people, will determine who will be Brazil’s President. The impeachment proceedings have become, in effect, the third round in the 2014 presidential elections — but this time, unlike in the first two rounds, the election is indirect.
Congress, while paying lip service to the “presidential” system of government, has essentially adhered to the parliamentary method of replacing those whose job it is to lead the country, but who have failed — a vote of no confidence. The impeachment ballot in the House and Senate will be a vote of confidence/no confidence in President Dilma.
Brazil has had indirect elections before. In January 1985, after the “Diretas Já!” campaign was vetoed by the military, an electoral college comprising members of Congress and state legislators elected the Tancredo Neves/José Sarney ticket. Neves died before he could be sworn in, and José Sarney became the first civilian President of Brazil in over twenty years.
In 1985, most of Brazil’s citizenry preferred an indirect election to no election. Query whether that is the case today.
The Curmudgeon will emit more Smidgens opportunely.