BRASILIA (Reuters) – Lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, took over the leadership of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) in the lower house of Congress on Monday in a bruising struggle for control of the party that is not over.
With active canvassing by his father, Bolsonaro succeeded gathering enough supporters to oust the PSL’s current leader in the chamber, Delegado Waldir, who admitted defeat in a video on social media.
The battle for control of the PSL and its large campaign war chest ahead of next year’s local elections came to a head last week when Bolsonaro attacked party founder Luciano Bivar and called for the party’s accounts to be audited.
The small PSL party surged from nowhere to become the second largest in the Brazilian Congress by serving as the platform for right-winger Jair Bolsonaro’s successful presidential run last year.
But lawmakers who sided with Bivar have not given up and said they had presented a new list of signatures on Monday afternoon to have Waldir reinstated. Congressional officers were verifying the lists to see who had the most signatures.
Even though the final outcome was still unclear, Bolsonaro lost no time in taking revenge on those who opposed him.
A spokeswoman for the PSL said he removed 12 deputy whips from the Bivar camp, including Joice Hasselmann, a congresswoman from Sao Paulo who stuck with party founder Bivar eyeing the funding she needs for a planned run for mayor of Brazil’s largest city next October.
The split in President Bolsonaro’s party will not affect the expected approval on Tuesday of his signature reform proposal to overhaul Brazil’s costly pension system, which is the main cause of the government’s unsustainable budget deficit.
But the political storm could torpedo the chances of confirming Eduardo as Brazil’s ambassador to the United States, an appointment that now appears to lack enough support in the Senate.
(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello and Lisandra Paraguass; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)