BRASILIA (Reuters) – A decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court barring the current leaders of the Senate and lower house of Congress from re-election in February has thrown open the race to replace them and cleared the way for a frenzied final few weeks of legislation this year.
Six of the top court’s 11 justices ruled late on Sunday in a remote vote that the Constitution clearly prohibited the re-election of Senate President Davi Alcolumbre and lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia.
The fight to control Congress has distracted lawmakers from a legislative agenda that includes dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, approving next year’s budget and advancing reform of Brazil’s byzantine tax code.
With the current leaders heading out the door, the struggle to control Congress will intensify between political parties backing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and centrist ones trying to keep a distance, risk consultancy Arko Advice said.
Alcolumbre has backed Bolsonaro and the end of his mandate running the Senate in February will be a loss for the president in pushing through his conservative agenda. It could open the way for the largest party in the chamber, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), to regain the top job.
In the lower chamber, Maia has increasingly become a critic of Bolsonaro’s leadership, and his allies are still favorites to retain the speakership. Maia told reporters he expects to get a chosen successor elected.
“I would not call the court decision against Maia running a victory for Bolsonaro, because the picture in the lower house will not change much,” said Arko partner Lucas de Aragão.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes/Mark Heinrich)