Bolsonaro Backtracks on Anti-Politics as Allies Balk at Reforms

(Bloomberg) -- With his plans for a key pension reform facing a cool reception in Congress, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is rethinking his negotiating strategy.

In his election campaign, Bolsonaro made a point of insisting that in power he would negotiate with cross-party caucuses, rather than engage in traditional Brazilian pork-barrel politics. But with limited legislative enthusiasm for his administration’s proposal to overhaul social security, Bolsonaro has reached out to party leaders.

The president had dinner with the heads of 19 of the 30 parties in Congress on Tuesday evening. According to lawmakers present, Bolsonaro listened carefully, spoke little and discussed the possibility of jobs for allies. The parties in attendance spoke up about their dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to negotiate as well as its continued insistence on portraying Congress as an obstacle to its goals.

"The president demonstrated some humility," Augusto Coutinho, leader of the Solidariedade party, said. "He showed that he understands he needs to govern with parliament."

Bolsonaro’s apparent volte face follows criticism of his pension reform proposal from a number of would-be allies who argue that it is too harsh on the poor in a country with high levels of poverty.

The government expects negotiations on the pension overhaul to resume after Carnival, which finishes on March 6.

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