Authoritarian infra-legalism in Brazil: bypassing the legislative process, attacking institutions and harming rights

In a context of economic crisis, political polarization and increasing institutional conflict, a far-right populist won the 2018 presidential election in Brazil. His victory is not a local incident. New populists and autocrats are arising around the world and follow a well-known script.
To which extent the Brazilian case relates to this pattern, and how big of a threat is Bolsonaro to democracy? To address those questions, this paper investigated the President’s performance in congress, as well as the way he employed executive decrees and other discretionary powers, during the first two years of his presidential mandate (2019-2020).
Our findings show that Bolsonaro’s method doesn’t fit to Scheppele’s concept of autocratic legalism, nor to Landau’s abusive constitutionalism. His method, which we called “authoritarian infra-legalism”, applies a unique set of infra-legal tools to bypass the Legislature, weakening agencies that should take him to account and directly attacking rights.