Whoever wins Brazil’s presidential race this month will likely not have a majority in Congress to pass reforms.
The next president, who will take the helm on Jan. 1, will have to deal with the neoliberal economic policies of current President Michel Temer that have seriously compromised 13 years of achievements of the Workers' Party in power, including fighting poverty and social injustice.
But making major changes will require the kind of congressional deal-making and alliances with which both lead candidates could struggle.
Should far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro win the second round, the right-winger will have no choice but to negotiate with Congress in order to govern. Bolsonaro’s tiny Social Liberal Party (PSL) has only one ally, which is even smaller. Between them, they can hope to elect at most 20 members of the lower chamber.
On the left, Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad comes in second in the polls, thanks partly to the popularity of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the party’s founder, currently in prison over disputed and controversial corruption charges. Haddad will likely face Bolsonaro in a run-off on Oct. 28, which polls show either could win.
Haddad, who for now can count on only one coalition member, the Communist Party, and may face a daunting task trying to rebuild the coalition in Congress that helped the Workers Party govern Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years. Those alliances exploded during the impeachment of Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, amid Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal.
As a result, although the Workers Party should control some 50 seats in the lower house, Haddad will find it harder than Bolsonaro to build further backing, analysts said.
“Haddad will face a more difficult task because he would probably not have the full support of the center parties nor the (current ruling party) MDB,” said David Fleischer, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Brasilia.
The center block, nicknamed the “centrão” or “big center,” has held sway in Congress for years and flexed its muscles when running Rousseff’s parliamentary coup d'Etat in 2016.
Center parties could win 170 seats on Sunday and they will most likely vote on Bolsonaro’s side of the aisle. If the MDB follows suit, Fleischer believes the fiery lawmaker running on a law-and-order and anti-corruption platform could forge a workable majority.
The centrist PSDB, a traditional Workers Party rival, may also back some of Bolsonaro’s proposals.