Fight for Helm of Brazil Congress Heats Up With Reforms at Stake

A battle for the presidency of both houses of Brazil’s congress is heating up with an upcoming top court ruling on whether the incumbent heads can run for re-election next year.

At stake is the future of President Jair Bolsonaro’s reforms during the second half of his term. The heads of the lower house and the senate retain great influence over the government’s agenda as they decide which bills go to a vote and when.

Fight for Helm of Brazil Congress Heats Up With Reforms at Stake

Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia and Senate President Davi Alcolumbre are both likely to seek another term if current rules banning their re-election are lifted. Yet the government considers that market-friendly reforms will have bigger chances of moving forward if the next house speaker comes from centrist parties that support Bolsonaro, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes fears his reform agenda would stall under the current house speaker, who wouldn’t want to favor Bolsonaro in the run-up to the 2022 presidential election, the people said, requesting anonymity because the discussion isn’t public.

The economy ministry declined to comment. Guedes said on Thursday that “political disagreements” involving the dispute for the job of lower house speaker are hindering the progress of reforms, including a long-delayed tax overhaul and a proposal to give formal autonomy to the central bank.

Maia responded that “government incompetence” is the actual problem. “Who’s blocking the lower house agenda in the past few months is the government coalition,” he wrote in a message on Friday.

Fight for Helm of Brazil Congress Heats Up With Reforms at Stake

Court Ruling

Brazil’s top court seems inclined to declare there’s no constitutional impediment to the re-election of both chambers’ chiefs, leaving a final decision on the topic for lawmakers to make.

Five of the court’s 11 justices have already voted in favor of the re-election in the senate while four supported the same for the lower house. A simple majority of six votes is needed.

The ruling process is taking place remotely and justices have until Dec. 11 to cast their votes.

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