Brazil’s Prospects Under a New Government

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Brazilians have been engulfed in the worst crisis to afflict the country since the end of the military dictatorship in the mid-80s. Although Brazil impeached its first democratically-elected president in 1992, suffered through bouts of hyperinflation, confronted several failed attempts at economic stabilization, and was victimized by serial financial crises during the 1990s, it has never faced a crisis quite like the current one. The entire political system has come under pressure from corruption investigations, and the Workers’ Party’s thirteen-year-long rule looks set to end with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil’s lower house recently approved moving the impeachment process forward in a landslide vote, and the Senate has already signaled that the odds of ousting Rousseff are high. What does this mean for Brazil’s economy, politics, and the chances that a government led by current Vice-President Michel Temer will be successful in achieving the urgent reforms the country desperately needs?

Much has been said about Temer’s lack of “legitimacy,” and it is widely expected that his government will prove to be all too similar to Rousseff’s. A recent poll by Ideia Inteligência, a Brazilian pollster, found that 65 percent of the population expect no improvement of the economy if a Temer government emerges, although the same 65 percent support Rousseff’s ouster. However, very low expectations regarding a potential Temer administration could actually be a boon for the incoming president, should the Senate vote to move ahead with the impeachment process in mid-May. If a majority of the population believes not much will change, any improvement, no matter how slight, may produce a much stronger credibility effect than would have been the case if a Temer-led government carried positive perceptions. Hence, the chances of an auspicious “legitimacy by performance” scenario are not negligible, despite Brazil’s many challenges and uncertainties.

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