Since impeachment talks began surrounding President Dilma Rousseff at the beginning of her second term, government supporters quickly said that people are attempting to pull a coup. The impeachment process has been opened in the Brazilian House of Representatives and will be voted on by congressmen. After Sunday’s demonstrations, this will probably happen sooner rather than later. While it is debatable that there exists enough evidence to try Rousseff for any wrongdoings she may have committed after her second inauguration, the impeachment process is not a coup. The real coup is another plan, which thus far hasn’t seen much opposition.
With the deterioration of the government already weakening Brazil’s situation, the political elites have come up with a solution that would resolve, or at least diminish, the current crisis: turn Brazil into a parliamentary republic through an amendment to its Constitution. According to this proposal, President Rousseff would become no more than a tenant in the presidential palace. She would keep her office, but without any real power. The Government Chief would become a Prime Minister. According to allies of the President, she has not yet turned down this possibility.
While an impeachment is a tool allowed under Brazilian law to take from office a leader who has committed a crime, changing Brazil’s form of government is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. And worse: this would happen through an amendment. Which means it would be a decision made by politicians without popular participation. And that is a coup.
The Brazilian political system is far from perfect. Some political scientists refer to it as a “presidentialism of coalition,” since its design fragments Congress. Others call it “imperial presidentialism,” because it gives much power to presidents. They can even control the legislative agenda through decrees and provisional measures (these hold the same value as laws, but are designed by the President’s office and must be considered as priorities over “normal” bills).
But, as bad as it may be, this is the type of government that Brazil has chosen twice. Once was in 1963, and the second in 1993 – after our re-democratization. During both occasions, the voting outcome wasn’t even close. In 1963, the votes were 77% against parliamentarism, versus 17% pro. In 1993, presidentialism held a smaller but still comfortable lead: 55% to 25%.
Aside from this fact, another dilemma must be considered: it could be dangerous to give this Congress more power. Right now, there are 40 congressmen involved in Operation Car Wash investigations, including the president of both chambers, Eduardo Cunha and Renan Calheiros – the latter being an object of seven investigations. Overall, 99 congressmen are being investigated in various corruption scandals. Brazilians despise their political class. Only 5% of Brazilians actually trust our parties. Do we want to give them even more power?