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  • Writer's pictureMehdi Sosar

On the Edge of Democracy: Brazilian Election in a Nutshell

Brazil, one of the largest democratic countries in the world, will hold presidential elections on October 2, 2022. It is clear that this election, which can be described as one of the turning points for Brazilian democracy, will witness a fierce competition between the current far-right populist president Jair Bolsonaro, who according to the polls is one of the two strongest candidates along with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the candidate of the Workers' Party who served as President between 2003 and 2010. A brief review of candidates' profiles will help us understand the importance of this election.

Jair Bolsonaro, a former soldier, and the incumbent president of Brazil since 2018 portrays himself as an alternative to corrupt politicians by claiming to solve the economic, political, and social turmoil that Brazil has been experiencing since 2012, with an anti-minorist, traditional and conservative-nationalist discourse that claims to prioritize the fight against crime, even by illegal methods. By applying the irrational theses he promised, throughout his rule, he has been negatively affecting the lives of millions of Brazilians. Especially with his policy of turning a blind eye and to some extent supporting deforestation of Amazon Forests number of displaced persons in Brazil has gone wild, not to mention the fact that most of these displaced people are the indigenous people of Amazons. This is not the only policy that harmed Brazilians' life. When the pandemic started Bolsonaro repeatedly called the pandemic a conspiracy and underestimated the great danger by comparing it to the flu. He allegedly refused to take measures like lockdowns. When the vaccination campaign started in nearly all around the world Bolsonaro acted so reluctant to bring the necessary amount of vaccine to Brazilian people. All these led Brazil to lose more than 680 thousand of its citizens during the pandemic.

Internally displaced persons, new displacement associated with disasters (number of cases) - Brazil - The World Bank Data

On the other hand, Lula Da Silva, a left-wing candidate, has a much more pleasant democratic record than his incumbent rival in every aspect such as freedom of speech, political and civil freedoms, separation of powers, and institutional government. However, it is hard to say the same in terms of his economic performance precisely due to global factors during both rivals’ presidencies. Brazil experienced a huge economic boom during Lula’s presidency, which can be easily related to the general global trend of rapid economic growth in developing countries in the early 2000s. The rising unemployment and inflation rate during Bolsonaro’s term can also be linked with the general global economic crisis happening in the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This makes an economic performance-based comparison hard between Lula and Bolsonaro.

The question “who supports who?” in Brazilian society is not hard to answer. Lula has undeniable popularity among poor Brazilians thanks to his enormous social projects aimed to elevate the welfare of poor Brazilians. By contrast, Bolsonaro enjoys the support of the upper-class and capital owners who are extremely suspicious about Lula's social programs. As the latest polls indicate bigger support on Lula's side (45% of Brazilians supporting Lula whereas Bolsonaro gets only 37% of support), Bolsonaro's populist slogans to devaluate the election system in case of a possible defeat have been more visible in his campaign. Bolsonaro's "Trump-style loss refusal" plans, coupled with his military carrier make this election profoundly crucial for Brazil's democracy. Brazil's democracy would be in real danger if Bolsonaro continues his immature misbehavior in a highly probable event of defeat in the upcoming election.

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