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The Brazilian government’s problem is its own base; not the opposition

Article by Foreign Policy Centre

November 14, 2011

The government has an expressive votong majority in National Congress. Nominally, there are 400 in the House and 62 in the Senate. However, this does not mean that life is easy in Parliament. Allied dissatisfaction and appetites make mobilization of this majority difficult and voting on some issues of interest to the Planalto Palace extremely expensive.

The constitutional amendment that extends the Disentailment of Union Revenue (DRU), a mechanism which allows the government to use 20% of the Budget as it pleases is a good example of this. This is an important fiscal policy instrument for the government.

Last week, the issue was on the House floor agenda to be put to first-round voting. However, due to pressure from allies, it was postponed until November 8.

In order to increase its power of blackmail over the Executive Branch, using its full weight the PMDB supported a DEM amendment which proposes the extension of the DRU until 2013 only and not 2015, as desired by the Executive Branch. This might further tie down president Rousseff in budget terms, right on the eve of the elections. In other words, approval of the DRU in 2013 would cost even more.

Blackmail from the base does not only reside in the House, but also in the Senate. In order to circumvent the delay in approval of the DRU in the House, government leader in the Senate, Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), presented a similar proposal to that of the Executive Branch. It was on the Justice and Constitution Committee agenda last week and voting was equally delayed.

Management of its base (not its actual base per se), is therefore one of the government’s greatest legislative challenges. The good results of the Rousseff administration combined with high popularity have contributed for this scenario not to be even worse.

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