Brazil's interim president, Michel Temer, is already struggling to overcome disagreements between his two most important coalition partners — the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) — over his economic plans. The final step in impeaching suspended President Dilma Rousseff is already underway in the Senate and will probably conclude with her ouster in less than a week. This leaves Temer with precious little time to refine his economic agenda and convince his allies to support it.
Though Temer's PMDB is the largest party in the National Congress, it holds only 13 percent of the legislature's seats. Therefore, Brazil's new leader must form and maintain a broad coalition of lawmakers if he hopes to effectively govern. Ruling by coalition, however, makes it difficult to actually pass legislation, since doing so would require appeasing a wide variety of lawmakers with differing views. Temer's first initiative, a batch of economic reforms, illustrates this challenge well.
PSDB Senate leader Cassio Cunha Lima announced on Aug. 24 his opposition to Temer's proposal to increase wages for public workers in the judicial branch, a measure expected to cost more than $1.3 billion annually. According to Lima, the PSDB will not support the government if it does not reduce Brazil's public spending. The criticism is a departure for the PSDB, which leads the foreign affairs, justice and municipal ministries. The party has been a vital advocate of Temer's economic reforms, which also include pension and labor revisions, in the legislature.
The issue has been further complicated by power struggles between members of the ruling coalition. The PMDB and the PSDB are both planning to field presidential candidates in 2018. So while the PSDB is trying to convince the PMDB to introduce unpopular measures to reduce public spending, it does not want to push too hard for fear of hurting its prospects in the 2018 election. Similarly, the PMDB wants to introduce generous public spending initiatives that will boost its popularity, but it must also work to appease the PSDB if it wants to keep the ruling coalition from crumbling.