President Jair Bolsonaro will join the Liberal Party (PL) on November 22, as the acronym announced. He has been without a party since 2019, after he came into conflict with figures from the PSL, which bet on his candidacy for the presidency.
The party is the third largest in the Chamber of Deputies, with 48 parliamentarians, and Flávia Arruda (DF) is on leave from the position to head the Secretariat of Government.
The acronym is second only to PT (58) and PSL (56). In the Senate, the party becomes dwarfed: just four senators compared to 15 from the MDB, 16 from the DEM or 12 from the PSD. The fact of being expressive in the Chamber, however, already counts points for the president, since it is the legislative house through which government projects first pass.
Liberals are also familiar with the physiology of the centrão, a group of parties with no ideological commitment, which allows for a rapprochement with other parties and figures from different spectrums. From 2002 to 2010, PL was in the Vice-Presidency alongside former president Lula. Today, it paves the way for Bolsonaro’s candidacy.
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“The PL is a party that has great freedom to make different political movements, including alliances with different parties in different ideological fields”, says political scientist Rafael Cortez, from Tendências Consultoria.
It is worth remembering that Bolsonaro was elected in the presidential election of 2018, using a speech against what he called “old politics” and “take over there”, the political mainstream. Therefore, affiliation with the PL has “some reputational cost”, explains Cortez.
“The material gains”, however, “seem to be greater than being stuck in this rhetoric that back then was important to victory, but which now, for 2022, would not help much in this objective of competing competitively in an election”.
Eventually, Bolsonaro may have some political loss, especially for voters who look at politics with “a kind of party purity.” The president, however, has already lost a good part of that voter. Polls show that only about 20% of the Brazilian electorate still supports the retired captain, which would be his hard core and anti-PT. “I think Bolsonaro has already paid the cost of these contradictions between what he was as a candidate and what he did as a government.”
For the party, the cost is much lower. There is a movement in the party system pointing to mergers between the acronyms, the most recent being between the PSL and the DEM. This is because, due to the prohibition of coalitions in proportional elections next year, as is the case for the Chamber of Deputies, there should be a reduction in the number of parties.
“The PL, at this moment, is investing in having the presidential candidacy, something unprecedented for the party, as a strategy to escape or to have a better competitiveness in this scenario of tightening of the rules of the game”, states Cortez.
“It is a party that is fighting with several on the right to have some prominence and has opted for the presidential candidacy, which, in some way, is the equivalent of party fusion. It’s an attempt to survive in this market, not by party fusion, but by the presidential candidacy, placing the bet that President Bolsonaro will be the big winner in the field of the right.”
To a certain extent, the PL bets on the same growth that the PSL had in 2018, with pocketbook candidates glued to the presidential campaign. “Even if it doesn’t result in the national election, it could eventually be a gain compared to the other right-wing legends that are performing. The presidential candidacy can be voted on.”
list of scandals
The party also collects memorable cases. Former Republic Party, from the unification of PL to the Party for Rebuilding the National Order (Prona), names ranging from Tiririca (SP) to veteran Inocêncio Oliveira (PE), through Anthony Garotinho, Magno Malta, from Rio de Janeiro and the president of the acronym, Valdemar da Costa Neto. While the acronym was PR, Gilberto Kassab was also close in trying to recreate the PL.
Among the scandals, Inocêncio Oliveira was convicted, in 2003, in two public civil actions brought by the Public Ministry of Labor for keeping 53 workers in slavery-like conditions on his farm in the municipality of Gonçalves Dias (MA). Three years later, the conviction was upheld by the Regional Labor Court of the 16th Region.
Following this line, former Rio de Janeiro governor Anthony Garotinho was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison for buying votes in the 2016 municipal elections. At the time, he was municipal secretary of government in Campos dos Goytacazes, in the administration of Rosinha Garotinho, his wife.
“The defendant was the leader of a rerun of the former coronelismo in this modern version, in which, instead of a halter, there was an offer to exchange votes for inclusion in the program”, said the rapporteur of the process, the electoral judge Paulo César Vieira de Carvalho, from the Regional Electoral Court of Rio de Janeiro (TRE-RJ). Today, Garotinho is being held in the Gericinó Penitentiary Complex, at the Bangu 8 unit.
Magno Malta, who celebrated under God’s blessings the election of Jair Bolsonaro, in turn, was prosecuted for making a false accusation of rape. According to former bus collector Luiz Alves de Lima, Malta tortured him to the point of leaving him blind, after accusing him of raping his own daughter. Due to lack of evidence, Lima was acquitted in 2016.
A decade earlier, Magno Malta was appointed by the CPI dos Leeches, which investigated the diversion of public funds destined for the purchase of ambulances at the Ministry of Health. Malta, however, was acquitted by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Gilberto Kassab, former minister and former mayor of São Paulo, in turn, became a defendant in March this year for passive corruption, money laundering, electoral funds and criminal association. The judge of the 1st Electoral Zone of the State of São Paulo, Marco Antonio Martin Vargas, accepted the complaint made by the Public Ministry. According to the agency, between January 2014 and December 2016, Kassab would have received R$ 16.5 million in bribes from the company JBS.
The icing on the cake is the conviction against Valdemar Costa Neto, legitimized by the Supreme Court (STF), in 2012, for passive corruption and money laundering, in the “mensalão” process. The ministers also determined a fine equivalent to R$1.08 million, in addition to 7 years and 10 months in prison. At the time of the “mensalão”, Costa Neto was president of the PL and was accused of receiving bribes in exchange for support in the National Congress for former president Lula.
Within the scope of Operation Lava Jato, José Antunes Sobrinho, a partner at Engevix, stated that Costa Neto and PR (current PL) received at least R$ 2.5 million in bribes, between 2007 and 2011, in Furnas contracts. During the period, Mario Marcio Rogar, nominated by Costa Neto, headed Furnas’ board.
Before Bolsonaro announced his affiliation with the PL, his son, Rio de Janeiro councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, had published a news item about the denunciation of his partner at Engevix. Now Zero Três has deleted the post. New life, page turned.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo