One to watch: Brazil’s congressional elections

Sao Paulo – All eyes are fixed on Brazil’s presidential election that latest polls suggest will go to a second round runoff between far-right Jair Bolsonaro and centre-left Fernando Haddad. But another equally important contest is underway: congressional elections.

On October 7, Brazilians will elect 54 senators and 513 legislators. Congress wields considerable power and since 2016 has decided the fate of two presidents: to impeach Dilma Rousseff for a budget misdemeanour and to shield Michel Temer from corruption charges.

Currently, more than 25 parties, most of which lack any clear ideology, often led by important regional and national power brokers, are represented in the lower house. As a result, horse trading is common: parties support bills in return for patronage.

The current Congress is also highly conservative. After the 2014 election, analysts foundit the most conservative since Brazil’s military dictatorship with the rise of the powerful agricultural, evangelical Christian and law enforcement blocks, known collectively as the “Bullets, beef and bible” caucus. Experts see 2018’s elected Congress as retaining this profile or likely getting more conservative.

“We will have a strong and active block of the hard right wing in Congress, the strongest since the dictatorship,” said Sylvio Costa, founder of watchdog group Congress in Focus.

“Regardless of whether Bolsonaro wins or loses, he will have a strong parliamentary support,” Costa told Al Jazeera.

Costa said that he thought it likely that the “Bullet Caucus” made up of legislators mostly from law enforcement backgrounds – that seeks to increase gun ownership and advocates a tough stance on crime – would increase its numbers in the lower house, riding the wave of Bolsonaro’s success that has in part been fuelled by increasing violent crime.


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