Brazil at a crossroads

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Brazil at ; the crossroads

Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro clashed in an acrimonious televised debate on October 16 in Sao Paulo.

At the end of the first round of the Brazilian presidential election, the former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva came first, but the 48% of the votes he obtained were not enough to avoid the holding of a a second round. On October 30, he will therefore face the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro.

While the polls attributed around 35% of the votes to the outgoing president, he won 43%. His result was much better than expected in all states.

In the parliamentary elections that were held at the same time, his party's candidates won 99 MP seats, three times more than in 2018. In the Senate, with the help of his allies, he will control half of the seats. /p>

Controversial politicians, such as the former Minister of Health, Eduardo Pazuello, accused of negligence for his management of the pandemic, and the former Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, the subject of several investigations and considered one of those responsible for the accelerated deforestation of the Amazon, were re-elected.

A supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro takes part in celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Brazil's independence, in Sao Paulo on September 7, 2022.

These results can be explained above all by the conservatism of Brazilian society, observes sociologist Angela Alonso, professor at the University of Sao Paulo.

It has long been estimated that all Brazilians shared the same values, she notes. Bolsonaro reminds us that part of Brazilian society has always been morally conservative. His discourse on morality, on the traditional family and against gay rights, is very appealing to some people.

“Moral issues explain part of its success. »

— Angela Alonso, professor of sociology at the University of Sao Paulo

It was wrong to think that Bolsonaro's election in 2018 was an anomaly, argues Beatriz Rey, visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University and member of the Center for Brazilian Congress Studies at Rio State University of Janeiro. It was believed to be a vote of rejection of the political system following the Lava Jato scandal [corruption scandal following which Lula was imprisoned]. But the results of the first round show that the right is here for a long time.

Several supporters of Jair Bolsonaro believe that ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva should be in prison.

A number of voters who voted for Bolsonaro wanted above all to mean their rejection of Lula's Workers' Party (PT), notes Ms. Rey.

“Anti-left, and more specifically anti-left, -PT, is very strong. Some are ready to do anything to prevent his return to power. »

— Beatriz Rey, researcher at the Center for Brazilian Congress Studies at the State University of Rio de Janeiro

In addition to blaming the PT for a certain disintegration of society traditional, some Brazilians associate the PT with corruption. Lula is particularly accused of having received bribes in exchange for the award of government contracts. Found guilty in 2018, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, but only spent 18 months behind bars after his sentence was overturned for a formality.

According to his detractors, his place is in prison.

The importance of classism should not be overlooked either, recalls Angela Alonso. Bolsonaro's voters are mainly found in the wealthiest classes, while those of Lula are mainly from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Voters who voted for candidates Simone Tebet (center right) and Ciro Gomes (center left), who came in 3rd and 4th place in the first round, will determine the winner of the second round. Between them, they received 8.5 million votes.

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Simone Tebet gave unequivocal support to Lula and firmly committed herself to his side. What's at stake is bigger than all of us, she said. I recognize his [Lula's] commitment to democracy and the Constitution, which is not the case with the current president.

In the case of Ciro Gomes, it' it was rather his party that supported the former president. The candidate himself did not come out clearly in favor of Lula.

Moreover, we do not know if the voters will follow their instructions.

During his two terms as head of the country (2003-2010), Lula managed to get out of the poverty of millions of Brazilians thanks to programs like Bolsa Família and Zero Hunger (Fome Zero).

During this campaign, the former president insisted on this issue. He promised to end hunger, which has worsened in recent years and now afflicts more than 30 million Brazilians.

For Mr. Bolsonaro the priority is rather to defend God, the family, the fatherland and freedom, which would be threatened, according to him, by a possible election of the PT. He promised to fight against the legalization of drugs and the right to abortion.

“The second round will be about religion and on this culture war. Bolsonaro's campaign is banking on it. »

— Beatriz Rey, researcher at the Center for Brazilian Congress Studies at Rio de Janeiro State University

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with members of the clergy on October 17, a way to refute the attacks of his opponent, who accuses him of not respecting religious institutions.

This week, she says, Lula had to defend himself for making a deal with the devil after pro-presidential groups spread false information on social media. He also had to deny wanting to close churches, as Jair Bolsonaro repeats.

The right to carry firearms is another issue that mobilizes Bolsonaro supporters.

Since coming to power, Jair Bolsonaro has issued several decrees aimed at facilitating access. Result: Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people allowed to own firearms increased by 473%, from 117,467 to 673,818.

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Some 4.4 million guns, registered and unregistered, are in circulation in the country. The firearm homicide rate there is 22.3 per 100,000 population (in Canada, it is 1.79 per 100,000 population).

Brazil is a very violent country, notes Beatriz Rey. Bolsonaro has been able to say that his political platform responds to this problem, even if what he proposes is simply to liberalize the use of firearms. But at least it addresses this issue that really worries people, while the left has not made any proposals.

It is precisely the risk of violent outbursts that worry many observers as the election approaches.

Employees prepare electronic ballot boxes ahead of the second round of the presidential election, in Brasilia, on October 19, 2022.

On several occasions, Jair Bolsonaro has questioned the reliability of the electoral system. He raised the possibility of fraud via electronic ballot boxes and threatened not to recognize the results if he ever lost the election. With tens of thousands of its supporters armed, isn't there a risk of slippage if the PT wins?

I would say the probability has gone down, simply because of the number of votes he got in the first round, believes Beatriz Rey. It will be difficult for him to challenge the results of a system that has served him well.

But if Bolsonaro himself does not question his results, his supporters could attempt to do so. Already, in recent weeks, several supporters of Lula and one of Bolsonaro have been assassinated. Between the two candidates, the knives flew very low.

“If Lula wins, part of Bolsonaro's supporters will react badly, and there are so many weapons in circulation that there could be violence in the streets. »

— Angela Alonso, professor of sociology at the University of Sao Paulo

In addition, she says, the president has the support of several soldiers in retirement, avowed supporters of military intervention in politics. He has armed support, that's for sure. What we don't know, and that's the difference with Trump, is what the reaction of the military as an institution will be. Trump did not rely on military authorities, those who might have ordered soldiers to take to the streets or to Congress. But here, in Brazil, we don't know how the army will react.

Thirty-seven years after the end of the military dictatorship, many fear that the page has not been definitively turned .

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