Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Brazil: Dilma’s unruly partners

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on January 5, 2011

by Jonathan Wheatley for Financial Times – Beyond Brics, January 5th, 2011.

You would think a thumping congressional majority would be enough to give a country’s leader an easy time of it. Alas, this is not so when your biggest coalition partner is Brazil’s PMDB, a catch-all agglomeration of regional interests known for its love of pork.

Dilma Rousseff, who took office as president on January 1, is finding out in her first week how troublesome the PMDB can be. Party leaders are upset because they got control of fewer of Dilma’s 37 ministries than they expected. Now they are threatening to vote for a bigger increase in the national minimum wage than Dilma wants, unless they obtain a big share of second-tier government posts. (A person’s suitability for such jobs, it is worth mentioning, is rarely a consideration.)

The row puts Dilma’s promised austerity drive in jeopardy before it has begun. The president was reportedly “aghast” at the PMDB’s behaviour, though she and her advisers must surely have seen it coming.

The PMDB has also threatened to make trouble over the election of congressional leaders on February 1. Dilma has out-manoevered them for now by postponing second-tier nominations until after Congress returns. By doing so, she has shown a tougher face than the PMDB may have bargained for. But all she has really bought is time.



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