By Anthony Boadle and Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Congress on Wednesday re-elected leaders of both chambers who were endorsed by leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a victory that will help it advance its legislative agenda and curb the influence of its opponents from right.
Senator Rodrigo Pacheco defeated an ally of far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro, winning 49 votes in the 82-member chamber to continue as Senate president.
Lula’s center-left coalition welcomed the vote count that would allow his government to push through constitutional amendments, such as those needed to change Brazil’s tax regime and create a new fiscal anchor to balance the government’s books.
Pacheco kept his leadership position despite Bolsonaro’s attempts to endorse Senator Rogerio Marinho. Bolsonaro, who had remained silent in prison in Florida, spoke on the phone Monday at a meeting of his party, the Liberal Party (PL), to promote the campaign of his former Cabinet minister.
Political cartoons about world leaders
In the lower house, President Arthur Lira of the center-right Popular Party (PP) won re-election by a wide margin, with the support of Lula’s Workers’ Party and its coalition partners, along with some of Mr. Bolsonaro.
Lira, who won 464 votes in the 513-seat chamber, had been a Bolsonaro ally but was quick to acknowledge Lula’s narrow electoral victory in October and congratulate him, launching a dialogue during the presidential transition.
Opposition control of either chamber could have hampered approval of Lula’s priorities, starting with the temporary decrees he has signed that extend welfare payments for poor families and cut fuel taxes.
All legislation must pass Lira’s desk to begin in Congress, including impeachment motions, which Bolsonaro’s allies are already planning against Lula.
In their victory speeches, both congressional leaders strongly defended Brazil’s democratic system, which came under attack by Bolsonaro supporters who stormed government buildings on January 8 calling for a military coup to restore their leader, who fled the country without accepting the defeat against Lula.
Pacheco, who rejected Bolsonaro’s criticism of Brazil’s electronic voting system, said the divided country needs pacification and political harmony.
But he added: “Pacification does not mean remaining silent in the face of anti-democratic acts,” referring to the riots and calling for accountability.
Lira condemned the violence by Bolsonaro supporters.
“In today’s Brazil there is no room for those who attack the institutions that symbolize our democracy. This chamber will not accept, defend, or endorse any act, speech, or demonstration that violates democracy,” he said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Maria Carolina Marcello, Ricardo Brito and Peter Frontini; Editing by Diane Craft and Grant McCool)
Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.