Scott Mainwaring on Dilma Rouseff, Impeachment, and the Future of Democratic Governance in Brazil

September 1, 2016
Scott Mainwaring on Dilma Rouseff, Impeachment, and the Future of Democratic Governance in Brazil
Scott Mainwaring is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor for Brazil Studies at HKS.

Following the Brazilian Senate's overwhelming vote to remove Dilma Rouseff from office, the Ash Center sat down with Scott Mainwaring, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor for Brazil Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School for a conversation on her impeachment, the future of the Left in Brazil, and how the country may move forward politically.

What does her conviction portend for the future of democracy in Brazil?  

There are pros and cons. The optimistic scenario is that the prosecution of politicians for corruption will continue and that Brazil's democracy will eventually improve as a result. But the impeachment deepened polarization and created skepticism on most of the left that the center and right will play fairly. Some of those who voted to remove Rouseff from office did so to squelch the investigations of corruption. And all of this takes place in the context of a bruising recession.  

To what degree did Rouseff’s market oriented reforms, which angered many of her left wing backers undermine her political support in Brazil’s legislature and make her vulnerable to impeachment proceedings?

Her shift toward attempting to achieve fiscal balance in late 2014 alienated many of Dilma's leftist erstwhile supporters. But I'm not sure how much that affected the outcome. Formally, most of the left continued to support her, though it did so with no enthusiasm. The economic crisis clearly was a factor in persuading many politicians to support her impeachment--but not her leftist supporters in congress.    

Will Temer serve in a caretaker function until the next elections in 2018, or will he likely try to continue with Rouseff’s leftwing platform?

Temer immediately turned the country in a more conservative direction when he became Acting President in May. All signs are that this will continue. 

Do you think former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may run again for another term given his implication in corruption allegations?

Lula is talking about running again, but his public image has deteriorated sharply as a result of the corruption investigations that are taking place. The chance that he could win the presidency is much lower than it would have been without these investigations.

Did the economic collapse, Petrobras scandal, and allegations of budget chicanery which eventually brought down Rouseff implicate the Left as a whole in Brazil?

It would overreach to say that these problems have implicated the Brazilian left as a whole, but it certainly affected the reputation of the left.