Limits to constitutional hardball in democracies – 05/24/2023 – Maria Hermínia Tavares

Limits to constitutional hardball in democracies – 05/24/2023 – Maria Hermínia Tavares

The last ten years have been anything but easy for Brazilian democracy.

In 2013, widespread discontent swept the streets. Then polarized presidential elections produced a victor by una cabeza, as in Gardel’s tango. And, of course, the outcome was contested by the loser. In 2015 and 2016, the right showed its face in squares and avenues, in the media and, with particular stridency, in social networks. Lava Jato exposed the corruption that greased the political gears and gave its drivers an odor of sanctity. Oh yes: it created the crisis that culminated in the controversial impeachment of the elected president.

For those interested in understanding how the supposedly purifying undertaking produced such an outcome, “Operação Impeachment”, by political scientist Fernando Limongi (However), comes to bookstores.

Through an obsessive reconstruction of the facts, the professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation shows that Dilma Rousseff only lost the political protection that blocked the process of her removal from Congress when the denunciations generated by the so-called Republic of Curitiba began to threaten important party figures centre-right supporters.

Save yourself who can — without lifeguards for all the castaways of the political arrangement that has sustained, since the mid-1990s, the presidential competition between the center-left and the center-right — had known and disastrous consequences in 2018.

Limongi does not buy the idea that the impeachment was a coup, as it is part of our legal framework. But that does not mean that it fails to show it as a weapon that is best left well kept in a drawer, due to its power to hurt the first of the foundations of liberal democracy: the choice of rulers by universal suffrage, in clean, competitive and periodic elections.

For the same reason, the author spares no acidity when dealing with Aécio Neves’ PSDB attempts to leak the result of the 2014 election to the TSE.

Legal scholars and political scientists call “constitutional hardball” the appeal to legal procedures for political gain, violating pre-established norms and pushing the limits of legality.

There are many files available to those dedicated to it. With or without success, the episodes in which an attempt was made to correct the will of the voter seem to fit the definition well. Just as it is possible to apply it, for the same reason, to the impeachment of the mandate of the lava-jatista deputy Deltan Dallagnol.

To some degree, the constitutional hard game is always present in the political disputes that animate democracies. But it is prudent to avoid that its frequent use ends up eroding the foundations of the regime.

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