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Michael Prospero

It was once said that the dangers of this government system, i.e. facilitating Caesarist tendencies and arriving at coup-like solutions, were phenomena limited to the banana republics. But the two former presidents, who do not recognize the legitimacy of the vote, are not mere mad extras, they embody the values ​​of the new right
We need a new reflection on Italy after the events in Brazil. Just as the Meloni government accelerates on the great institutional reform to move to the new post-parliamentary republic, the presidential regimes show unequivocal signs of usury around the world. In times of strong polarization, the game of the defeated president is often not to recognize the outcome of the vote in order to incite his supporters to rise up en masse against the institutions and (supposed) fraud of the winner.
It was once said that the dangers of presidentialism, i.e. facilitating Caesarist tendencies and even arriving regularly at coup solutions, were phenomena limited to the banana republics. Indeed, there was the shining example of the White House which showed the extraordinary effectiveness of the separation of powers, the perfect institutional etiquette in the handover and the supreme virtues of balanced constitutionalism.
Now that’s not the case anymore. Precisely from the United States, where only a few years ago the Supreme Court decided the controversial outcome of the vote in favor of the Republicans without any intemperance of the Democrats (although they would have had reasons), the howl of the revolt of a defeated president that rails against competitive democracy, the judges, the opposing party that has become the enemy of the nation. In the great refusal to recognize the sovereignty of the ballots when the counts are unfavourable, Trump and Bolsonaro shake hands. They are not simple extras gone mad, they embody the declared values ​​of the new right which, deeply rooted in its social and cultural basin, is growing in the post-democracy world as an increasingly tangible threat.
When the Brazilian “captain of the people” triumphed, Giorgia Meloni triumphantly declared: “With Bolsonaro in Brazil, a gap is finally opening in the network of international radical chic”. If from Rome the Fdi leader called with words of joy (“the right wins also in Brazil, the left is defeated throughout the planet and in history. Finally the peoples are recovering their freedom and their sovereignty”), from Brasilia Bolsonaro’s son, a deputy, very close to Steve Bannon, replied with equal exaltation (“Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni, who will be the first woman to govern Italy. Like Brazil, now Italy is God, country and family” ).
The populist right is a very extensive political-ideological phenomenon that everywhere presents the same symbols, the same violent and resentful social base, which, between a selfie and a gun, in colorful clothes tries to destroy free institutions. Political polarization, with traditionalist ideologies and supportive religious cults, also restores visibility to the manifestations of armed politics. What are the features of Bolsonaro’s new authoritarianism, which Salvini accompanied in the Tuscan hills like a handsome soldier of freedom?
It is not the rear view mirror that one must look to see if a new march on Rome is coming. It is to Warsaw and Budapest (“autocratic legalism” Kim Lane Scheppele calls it) that we need to turn our gaze to decipher the caliber of the triumphant right, which shows the ambiguous face of the democrats wherever it takes root. And it is the United States and Brazil that need to be probed to measure the dramatic costs of disloyal presidents who, hit by the tide of neo-populism, attack the structures of liberal power and, once they have remained in the minority, appeal to the streets. Violence and politics. It seemed like an outdated, twentieth-century theme. Instead, it bursts like an unexpected anomalous wave into the legitimacy crisis of politics. After the US invades the tropics. The global political right finds it difficult to accept defeat, and so the assault on institutions follows every loss of power by the populist leader. The charismatic leader, who rose to command against professional politicians and the elites, cannot bear to be unseated by the real people, who, having experienced the government of anti-politicians, no longer tolerate the deceptive and simplifying narratives of the “homines novi”. Carina Barbosa Gouvêa and Pedro H. Villas Bôas Castelo Branco, in their interesting book (Populist Governance in Brazil: Bolsonaro in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective, Springer, 2022), frame the new right-wing populism (“democratic illiberalism”) as an impending threat to pluralist democracy. The drift did not stop with Trump’s defeat in 2020, and indeed the assault of his followers on the Capitol turns out to be a symbolic event with a strong contagious power. The two Brazilian scholars trace the success of Bolsonaro’s populist authoritarianism to the “criminalization of politics”. In the name of the fight against corruption, an anti-establishment force triumphs and a gloomy desert of depoliticisation is being built in which liberal democratic institutions are perishing for lack of roots. Bolsonaro’s public policies stand out for his attempts, as soon as he was elected, to fabricate a “pseudo constitution”, weaken the autonomy of the judiciary, “break democratic traditions”, with their slow and cumbersome procedures, and build, in their place , a “hyper-executive power”. He added a mystical touch to the captain’s muscles, useful for managing the political-religious moralization campaign. The truth of the community of faith well justified the peccadillo of the myriad of false news that the power media spread at every instant. Faced with a real emergency that required an effective decision-making capacity, such as Covid, Bolsonaro, with his “necropolitics”, adopted the same solutions that Giorgia Meloni, inspired by the no-vax philosophers and jurists, endorsed in the posts of he. A beautiful book by André Duarte (Pandemic and Crisis of Democracy. Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and Necropolitics in Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Routledge, 2022) returns the ethical-political personality of a leader of the new Brazilian right (with chameleonic ideology and evanescent party-form) who branded the pandemic as “a neurosis”. Faced with thousands of dead, the president, answering his questions, “joked saying that, although his middle name was Messias, he was not able to work miracles! Already a few days earlier, he had declared that he would not comment on all those deaths because the topic suited gravediggers. And then, after all, dying is everyone’s destiny. But on March 3, 2021 Bolsonaro surpassed all his previous claims by rudely shouting that Brazilians should face their problems and stop whining, more whining and crying.
Characteristic of Bolsonarismo is a direct communication of the leader with the mass conducted through social networks, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and the support of informal propaganda consultancy groups (the so-called “hate cabinet”, installed inside the presidential palace of Brasilia, next to the office of the head of state). The appropriation of sporting and national symbols is exhibited as a decisive resource for the construction of myths, images capable of igniting a strong political fanaticism. In the politics of the infinite slogan, reality becomes a wholly incoherent basis, while the effective world is only that of the leader’s unlimited word. With undoubted effectiveness, his narration manages to make the true-false binary code harmless, which is overwhelmed by endless doses of lies. “Bolsonaro constantly relies on the production and reproduction of well-orchestrated lies and fake news campaigns, the more absurd the better, since this is the only way to create effective smokescreens” (André Duarte). After the events in Brazil, it is time to distance oneself from an impressionistic political science which, from Cacciari to Annunziata, uncritically exalts the return of politics with Meloni, without rigorously engaging in some problematic nodes. Before the conquest of the government by the post-missinis, the black square and no vax attacked Parliament and Palazzo Chigi, devastated the headquarters of the CGIL, blocked the port of Trieste. Subversivism from below has now subsided. However, subversivism from above remains, with the unknown factor of a radical right which, agitating for the modification of the form of government, claims the breaking of constitutional continuity; it infringes the rule of law through the liberticidal decree on juvenile meetings; forces, while delivering the angel to the Pope, the ships with the migrants to humiliating crossings along the seas of Italy; evokes, despite the promise not to “touch the law 194”, the contraction of women’s freedoms.
Autocracy is not closely related to presidentialism: in Europe the assault on the rule of law is driven by parliamentary political systems, such as Poland and Hungary. Illiberal democracies can therefore also proliferate within regimes of the latter type. The direct election of the monocratic office, however, releases the temptation of the ousted charismatic leaders to reject the unexpected demotion, decreed by a people deceived and cheated by fraud that finds its authentic voice only in the word of the flirtatious leader with proofs of rebellion . The new right, in America and in Brazil, does not tolerate the test of electoral turnover. In Italy, the presidential remedy is being sought not only to cherish the ideology of the strong man, but also to definitively dismiss the anti-fascist Republic. Such a strong discontinuity, such as the passage to the direct election of a head of state who is also the head of the executive, would introduce a mine into the foundations of the order, for which the constitution-value, with the Caesar’s carriage advancing, would would be irreversibly transfigured. The opposition must oppose everything that expands the spaces of power’s discretion, weakens the control and sense of limitation of the institutions, increases the unbridled push of the authority towards disinformation. Its action should aim at rebuilding the social subjects of pluralism, at strengthening links with European and international partners, at defending guaranteeism as a distinctive trait of the legal system, at preserving the secularism of the public space, at rebuilding the party-form as barrier to illiberal drifts.

Source: The reformist

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The article is in Italian