Attendance at protests across Brazil against President Jair Bolsonaro has been much lower than rallies the president called earlier this week, stressing that pressure from the streets remains insufficient to lead efforts towards his impeachment
Many of those protesting were all dressed in white, following instructions from political groups that staged the protests in at least 19 states. There was a notable absence of left-wing political parties, which reduced turnout.
“Bolsonaro is in the midst of a political crisis, but public opinion has so far not put pressure on lawmakers at the center for impeachment,” said Leonardo Avritzer, professor of political science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. “Impeachment can take place if lawmakers understand that they are starting to run the risk of not being elected in 2022 by continuing to support the Brazilian president.”
Centrist lawmakers told The Associated Press this week that participation in Sunday’s protests would be decisive in determining whether to push for impeachment.
The president’s approval ratings have steadily declined throughout the year, but he remains much more popular than previous presidents who were ousted – most recently Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party in 2016.
Unlike 2016, people are not largely united behind an alternative or a project, said Leonardo Consentino, professor of political science at Insper, a university in Sao Paulo. In addition, he said many political leaders want to resolve the political crisis with the 2022 elections, when Bolsonaro is expected to run for another term.
As Tuesday’s pro-Bolsonario protests showed, the president is still in a position to energize his supporters. He received an enthusiastic reception from protesters in Sao Paulo and the capital, Brasilia, as he entered the Supreme Court. He said he would no longer abide by the rulings of Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who will assume the presidency of the nation’s electoral tribunal next year. He also said that only God can remove him from the presidency.
Many called his comments “undemocratic,” including Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux, who said disobeying court decisions or encouraging others to do so would constitute a crime punishable by impeachment. Bolsonaro then backtracked in a statement saying his comments were made in the “fire of the moment” and that he had not intended to attack other branches of government.
More than 130 impeachment requests have been filed since Bolsonaro’s administration began, but lower house president Arthur Lira and his predecessor have refused to initiate proceedings.
The Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, one of the parties with the greatest capacity to mobilize street protests, did not participate in Sunday’s protests. Party chairman Gleisi Hoffman said he was not invited to join the events, although he supported the cause.
But the party might not want an impeachment given that da Silva holds a significant lead in the early polls for the 2022 presidential election, said Consentino, the political science professor.
“Lula is in a comfortable setting to travel to an election with Bolsonaro,” Consentino said. “Defeating him would be the best scenario for the Workers’ Party to return to the presidency triumphantly. “