Evangelical leaders have heard from President Jair Bolsonaro that, at least for now, he is unwilling to withdraw his “terribly evangelical” nomination for the STF (Supreme Court).
His former Minister of Justice and former Attorney General of the Union, André Mendonça, remains the president’s bet for the vacant vacancy in July in the court, even though Davi Alcolumbre (DEM-AP) is indefinitely postponing the nominee’s hearing in the CCJ (Committee on Constitution and Justice), under its custody.
Mendonça was even invited by Bolsonaro to join the meeting he had with pastors this Wednesday (15), at Palácio do Planalto.
The call featured Silas Malafaia, Estevam Hernandes and César Augusto, a trio who was at the president’s side at the September 7 event in São Paulo, sprinkled with threats to the Supreme Court. They were unanimous in saying that “there is no other name” than that of the former AGU, who is a Presbyterian pastor and was a soldier of pocketbook during his time in the government.
The pilgrimage of evangelicals through Brasília, at a time when Mendonça’s nomination hangs by a thread, was seen as the “final battle”, in the words of a pastor who was there.
It’s been more than two months since Bolsonaro pointed his name to Marco Aurélio Mello’s chair, and it’s time to resolve this situation, they say. Even to think of a plan B, also evangelical — a hypothesis that they only admit backstage, in case the attempt to get Mendonça goes down.
“The president [prometeu um evangélico no STF] in the electoral campaign and after it. We don’t put a knife in the neck, that was his word”, said Malafaia.
“We have no other name, everyone is closed to André,” said the apostle Estevam Hernandes, creator of the March for Jesus, which in 2019 received for the first time a president of the Republic —Bolsonaro.
César Augusto, from Fonte da Vida church, followed the script: “The president reaffirmed that he has no other option, the option is André, only André. All the leaders were here. It was very positive, very positive indeed”.
Earlier, evangelical congressmen met with the president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG), and made a point of publicizing the picture of the meeting on their social networks. Four senators from the religious bloc sat at the table: Zequinha Marinho (PSC-PA), Eliziane Gama (Cidadania-MA), Vanderlan Cardoso (PSD-GO) and Carlos Viana (PSD-MG).
Pacheco heard the same message that would later echo in Planalto: they are not going to give up on Mendonça. The leaders and lawmakers asked the president of the Senate to help unlock the nomination of the former AGU, since the group does not work with the possibility of choosing a new name for the Supreme.
Also according to Malafaia, Pacheco said he would help the former AGU. “He’s going to talk to Alcolumbre, he’s going to set the agenda to resolve this story soon.”
Despite the nods from both Bolsonaro and the president of the Senate, there is no forecast yet for the hearing in Mendonça, which already sets a record for waiting at the House.
Parliamentarians from Bolsonaro’s allied base, inside and outside evangelical political circles, have been discussing in recent days the possibility of suggesting to the president the replacement of Mendonça by another nominee. The names of the attorney general Augusto Aras and the ministers of the STJ (Superior Court of Justice) Luis Felipe Salomão and Humberto Martins returned to circulation. Even Marcos Pereira, president of Republicanos and licensed bishop of the Universal Church, entered the betting exchange.
The idea has not gained traction, thanks to evangelical resistance to substitution. Aras is not evangelical. Neither is Martins, in the view of many pastors — he is from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian line that many evangelicals dismiss as part of the segment.
Another fact that weighs against Martins: you must be under 65 to be appointed to the court, and he reaches that age on October 7th. It would, at the very least, be a race against time.
At the meeting, Pacheco also reported that he received signals from current justices of the Supreme Court that Mendonça’s name would be well received in court and that there was a demand from the members of the court for the vacancy to be filled soon. For more than two months, the Supreme Court has been operating with only 10 of the 11 seats occupied.
Deputy Sóstenes Cavalcante (DEM-RJ), Malafaia’s ally who will assume the leadership of the Evangelical caucus in the 2022 election year, says that there are ways to pressure Alcolumbre to analyze Mendonça’s nomination. The House, after all, depends on the Executive for the payment of extra amendments.
“If he doesn’t buy this fight with the Senate, he buys with the evangelical segment”, said the deputy. “Our candidate became Mendonça, and we didn’t give up.”
If Mendonça, when chosen by Bolsonaro, sought to chase away the idea that his only credential was to be an evangelical, today he clings to the religious to survive his nomination.
The resistance, however, is not only Alcolumbre’s. According to ministers from Bolsonaro, other senators are also not in love with Mendonça.
Although Bolsonaro insists on the name of the former justice minister, the government has not yet used heavier artillery to guarantee support for the nominee: threatening with amendments and positions.
One of Ciro Nogueira’s main missions, upon assuming the Civil House, was to try to pacify Mendonça’s nomination in the Senate. Still no result.
“They want to lead André, [Bolsonaro] will nominate another evangelical. That’s what you have to understand. It’s no use what they’re doing with André”, says Malafaia. “If they give lead, another evangelical will go. So, what are they going to do?”