Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – PMDB was the successor to MDB, the official opposition party created by the military dictatorship, whose initials stood for Movimento Democrático Brasileiro. PMDB was the party of President Tancredo Neves and José Sarney, Tancredo’s VP who succeeded him as President in 1985, and Itamar Franco, Fernando Collor’s VP who succeeded him as President in 1992.
PMDB has never been a party with any ideological bias; after 1985, it never ran candidates for President, preferring congressional, state and municipal power to Presidential. It has been extraordinarily successful, typically holding the largest number of seats in Congress as well as in state and municipal legislatures.
Upon President Lula’s election in 2002, PMDB was the most important partner of PT in multi-party coalition governments. PMDB’s president Michel Temer was Dilma’s running mate in both 2010 and 2014. Until the current crisis, Temer had stayed well beneath the radar.
That changed abruptly when Dilma put Temer in charge of liaison with allied congressional parties. Formerly, the liaison’s principal job was to allocate highly paid “second echelon” sinecures in government agencies and companies among lesser political parties, in exchange for legislative loyalty. That is no longer the case.
The reason is that, for the first time, PMDB leaders are the presidents of both Houses of Congress. Both Cunha and Renan have their own ambitions, goals and agendas, most of which do not dovetail with those of Dilma and PT. Moreover, mirabile dictu, they have gained de facto control over both legislative Houses, while renouncing the spoils system approach used by Lula.
Put another way, PMDB has now taken over legislative leadership from PT, while simultaneously sidelining President Dilma. She can make proposals and attempt vetoes, but she no longer tells Congressmen what to vote on, or how to vote.
PMDB has been aided and abetted in this by PSDB, the principal opposition party. Whenever votes come up where PMDB leaders oppose Dilma’s position, PSDB votes against Dilma. To its shame, PSDB has voted against the very economic measures it propounded in its campaign, and has even voted to abrogate legislation it sponsored during FHC’s presidency.
Worse yet, half of Dilma’s own party PT has deserted her and adopted the same stance as PSDB by voting against her proposals. PT has now become an opposition party, led by (surprise!) former President Lula, who advocates PT returning to its roots and its “utopia”.
In the midst of all this, what has Dilma done? She’s dashed off to Putin’s dacha to build rapport with BRICS, leaving PMDB’s Michel Temer to run the country — or rather, allow his fellow PMDB bigwigs to run it. PMDB, in short, has temporarily taken over power in Brazil.
The Curmudgeon notes that two PMDB Vice Presidents have succeeded elected Presidents. Were Dilma to resign (she has said loudly and repeatedly she won’t) it would happen a third time. In that case, as under Lula, Brazil would have the Executive and Legislative branches controlled by only one political party – PMDB.
The Curmudgeon will emit more dismal opinions opportunely. Stay tuned.