In negotiations for a merger, DEM and PSL should give way to a new party that will house historic political bosses, staunch allies of President Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and even the widows of Pocketnarismo – politicians elected in the conservative wave of 2018, but who broke through with the president.
The union between the two parties is already aligned in the party summits, but it still faces a series of obstacles in the formation of regional platforms and in defining the commands of the local directorates.
The expectation is that a final decision will be taken by the end of September – the two parties meet their respective National Executives next Tuesday (21) to debate the merger.
The numbers of the probable new party will be superlative, starting with the slices of the electoral party funds. In 2020, PSL and DEM together had around R$138 million for the day-to-day management of the parties and another R$320 million to spend on municipal elections.
The value of the electoral fund would be 60% greater than the R$201 million of the PT, the party that had the largest share of the fund in the 2020 elections.
The bench in the Federal Chamber will rise to 81 deputies, 53 from the PSL and 28 from the DEM, creating the party with the most seats in the National Congress. The bench in the Senate would reach eight senators.
At the start, the party will have four governors: Ronaldo Caiado (Goiás) and Mauro Mendes (Mato Grosso), currently in the DEM, Mauro Carlesse (Tocantins) and Coronel Marcos Rocha (Rondônia), from the PSL.
“Our idea is to make a big party. A party that has capillarity, representation in all states and becomes attractive to foster proportional candidacies”, says federal deputy Elmar Nascimento (DEM-BA), an ally of DEM president ACM Neto, who participates in the negotiations.
At the PSL and DEM summits, the assessment is that the merger will be good for the two parties, since both have a similar ideological profile and would complement each other in their strengths and weaknesses.
The DEM has a solid trajectory in Brazilian politics: with the name of PFL, it emerged in 1985 as a rib of the PDS, the party that succeeded Arena in supporting the military governments.
After facing a lean period in opposition to PT governments between 2003 and 2015, it gained muscle in the last elections: it has around 460 mayors and just over 1 million members.
In recent months, however, it has faced a scenario of internal division, head-to-head decisions and state casualties.
The PSL, in turn, was a runt party until Jair Bolsonaro’s affiliation. In the 2018 elections, it swelled artificially and managed to elect 52 deputies rocked by a conservative wave. But it has only 75,000 affiliated members.
After Bolsonaro’s disaffiliation in November 2019, his biggest challenge is precisely to establish himself as a party with capillarity. The first test, in 2020, was not encouraging: even with a generous electoral fund, PSL elected only 91 mayors, none in capitals.
To meet the interests of both parties, the first decision was that the merger will create a new party, which should not be called Democrats or PSL.
The new name will be decided upon after the merger, based on qualitative research. The party number has not been decided either, but the use of the 17, which became associated with Bolsonaro in 2018, is ruled out.
It is also defined that the party, under no circumstances, will be on Jair Bolsonaro’s ticket in 2022. On the other hand, those who decide to support the president’s reelection will not be constrained by the command of the party.
Most likely, the MPs closest to Bolsonaro will leave the PSL after the merger and migrate to the party chosen for the president for his succession. This is the case of deputies such as Eduardo Bolsonaro (SP), Carla Zambelli (SP), Bia Kicis (DF) and Hélio Lopes (RJ).
On the other hand, party leaders say they are optimistic that the losses will be offset by the arrival of parliamentarians from other parties and potential competitive candidates in 2022.
The national command of the new party was also defined smoothly: the party will be chaired by the current president of the PSL, federal deputy Luciano Bivar (PE), with the president of the DEM, the former mayor of Salvador, ACM Neto, as secretary general .
At first, the party will present the names of the president of the Senate Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM), of the ex-minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta (DEM) and of the presenter José Luiz Datena (PSL) for the election to Planalto. But it will not close its doors to negotiating with candidates from other parties.
If the atmosphere in the dome is one of harmony, the bases are still an obstacle to the realization of the merger. The main challenge is to make the transition happen in a harmonious way and as less traumatic as possible for both sides.
“It’s impossible to please Greeks and Trojans. There are 54 state executives, 27 from each party. There is no way to serve everyone”, assesses federal deputy Delegado Waldir, from the PSL of Goiás, who has already reached a consensus with Governor Ronaldo Caiado (DEM) in his state.
On the table are the definition of platforms for the 2022 elections and the command of state directories. States such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Ceará, Tocantins, Maranhão and Rondônia are among the main focuses of conflict.
In the state of São Paulo, the state succession is at the center of the dispute: part of the deputies defends the support for vice-governor Rodrigo Garcia, who changed the DEM for the PSDB, while another part works to attract former governor Geraldo Alckmin, who should leave the toucan nest.
The scenario is even more complicated in the state of Rondônia, where governor Colonel Marcos Rocha (PSL) and senator Marcos Rogério (DEM) are pre-candidates for the government and potential adversaries.
There is also conflict in Ceará, where the PSL was taken over by allies of federal deputy Captain Wagner (Pros), who will migrate to the legend to run for the state government. The Ceará DEM, on the other hand, is allied with Governor Camilo Santana (PT) and former Minister and President Ciro Gomes (PDT).
The arrival of a staunch opponent of Ciro to the party to run for the government of Ceará tends to create sparks in the rapprochement between DEM and PDT in other northeastern states, such as Bahia and Maranhão.
In states like Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Maranhão and Tocantins, the focus of the dispute is the command of regional directorates.
In Rio, the pocket-born deputy Sóstenes Cavalcante took control of the DEM after the expulsion of the former president of the Chamber, Rodrigo Maia, and is not willing to hand over the command of the party to the PSL.
In Pernambuco, there is a plea for former federal deputy Mendonça Filho, a historical member of the DEM, to remain at the head of the new party. The name of the acronym to run for government is the mayor of Petrolina, Miguel Coelho (DEM), son of the leader of the government in the Senate Fernando Bezerra Coelho (MDB).
The Pocket-born pre-candidates are also negotiating to maintain their position of support for the President in case of a merger. This is the case, for example, of the Minister of Labor Onyx Lorenzoni (DEM), who intends to run for the government of Rio Grande do Sul next year.
They will have to live in the party with former Bolsonaro allies who broke with the president and became noisy opponents, such as PSL deputies Joice Hasselmann (SP), Dayane Pimentel (BA) and deputy Julian Lemos (PB).
In the evaluation of deputy Elmar Nascimento, the merger will only advance if objective criteria are established to mitigate the conflicts: “If we decided only with our heart, it won’t work.”