Populist governments, Courts and the fight for democracy: An analysis of Supreme Court rulings in contemporary Brazil

Populism, as a political style, rests on the rhetorical and mediatic construction of political personae. Its aim is to grant politicians enough popular support to allow them to bypass, co-opt or pervert democratic institutions. Populist leaders make use of the principle of popular sovereignty to put forward a synecdochical, reduced version of democracy.
Courts play a key role in preventing this downgrading of democracy by affirming the primacy of rule of law over populist whim. In their effort to safeguard democratic values, however, Courts may risk being tempted to overextend their powers thus acting, rather paradoxically, to further enfeeble the very system they want to preserve.
This paper discusses this dilemma lived by Courts by examining Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) rulings. It argues that the STF has simultaneously played a key role in buttressing Brazil democracy and created new challenges for its preservation