The Brazilian Senate elected a pro-government lawmaker as their chief, potentially boosting President Jair Bolsonaro’s reform agenda but also leaving the administration’s strength in the upper house in question. Bolsonaro congratulated Davi Alcolumbre, saying his challenge is to act on Brazilian voters’ desire for change.
Alcolumbre, 41, a little-known legislator from the pro-business DEM party, (and the first Jew to sit in the Brazilian Senate) won by one vote after a tumultuous debate that lasted more than 24 hours and saw front-runner Renan Calheiros of the MDB party, the Senate’s biggest, drop out. In the lower house, DEM’s Rodrigo Maia won a third consecutive term as speaker on Friday.
While Alcolumbre has declared his support for Bolsonaro’s economic agenda, his acrimonious victory and lack of leadership experience raise questions about his ability to push the reform bills, including a much-awaited pension overhaul, in practice. There are also questions as to what extent pro-Calheiros legislators will remain loyal to the government.
“It’s easier for the government to negotiate with Davi than with Renan,” said Juliano Griebeler, a Brasilia-based analyst with BMJ consultancy. “But the election of Davi certainly means opposition from Renan, who until now was open to dialog with the government.”
With his PSL party holding four of 81 Senate seats, Bolsonaro’s immediate challenge is to forge a working majority in a Congress with some two dozen parties. While several parties have pledged to support the government, Bolsonaro has no formal coalition to count on.
One of the great winners of the vote was cabinet chief Onyx Lorenzoni, also of the DEM and political godfather of Alcolumbre. Lorenzoni’s wife works in his office.
Minister Paulo Guedes and the economic team preferred the experience of Renan Calheiros as an asset in the articulation of reforms. However, Calheiros is a faithful ally of the system and represented left-wing the old politics.
Christopher Garman, director of the US-based political risk consultancy Eurasia, thinks the government has mismanaged the Senate and House but does not believe it will compromise the economic agenda. Both Alcolumbre and Maia defended the reforms in their victory.
Davi Alcolumbre will command the Senate for the next two years, He is in his first term as a senator. Married with two children, Alcolumbre was born in Macapa on 19 June 1977. He is the fourth son of Joseph mechanical Tobelem and businesswoman Julia Alcolumbre.
He began working in the family trade and to study economics in Amapá Higher Education Center, but did not conclude and decided to follow the path of politics.