October 2018Opinion2018

Brazilian Elections Devolve

By Luisa Chainferber
Staff Writer

In the first round Brazil’s elections on October 7, the right-wing presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, failed to secure the 50 percent majority vote needed for an outright win, says The Guardian.

The second round of voting is expected for October 28, in which Mr. Bolsonaro will have to compete against Fernando Haddad, the candidate from the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT).

Many groups in Brazil have blamed the PT and their recent administration for the economic crisis in Brazil. While much of this criticism should be regarded as legitimate, Brazil has something greater at stake with the upcoming round of the presidential election.

As the Independent reports, Mr. Bolsonaro is famous for his appeals to violence as the solution to insecurity and disorder as well as his attacks on women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants.

His recent stabbing at a political rally is perhaps the best metaphor for what kind of government Mr. Bolsonaro would create: a government in which citizens believe that violence is the only means to governance.

Mr. Bolsonaro is not just a presidential candidate, but rather a personification of the worst aspects of Brazilian society, such as the tendencies to authoritarianism, militarism, structural racism, sexism, nepotism, and homophobia.

His rhetoric is powerful in the sense that it touches the sentiments of a wide base of voters who are long tired of systematic violence and no longer believe in other politicians. These citizens either agree with his controversial comments or are willing to overlook his remarks for the sake of his agenda.

Unlike Mr. Bolsonaro, Haddad was relatively unknown outside of the state of São Paulo, where he was the mayor of one of Brazil’s biggest cities, says Al Jazeera. Mr. Haddad is endorsed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, one of Brazil’s most controversial former presidents who is currently in jail for money laundering and corruption charges.

While the endorsement expanded Haddad’s public profile and voting base, a large number of voters who vehemently oppose Lula use the association between Lula and Haddad to discredit the latter.

Even though many perceive Haddad as a less-than-ideal option, voters still need to realize that the second round of elections is not a choice of a ‘lesser’ evil. If elected, Mr. Bolsonaro would be the latest example of Latin America electing self-billed saviors during crises.

Yet Mr. Bolsonaro is far from a savior; he is a perfect example of the evil twists that democracy must endure.

The rise of fake news can also explain why Mr. Bolsonaro became so appealing to voters.

Folha de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s major journals, reports that on the day before the election, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court demanded the removal of 35 fake news publications harmful to Haddad’s public image within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bolsonaro has been able to recreate his image and present himself as an outsider from politics, despite an almost 30-year long political career.

In fact, as Rede Brasil Atual journal reports, Mr. Bolsonaro has presented 170 bills of law to Congress during 27 years, but only two have ever been ratified.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters correctly critique the long chain of inefficiency that slows Brazil’s economic and social development. However, they fail to recognize that Mr. Bolsonaro is part of this chain. He will continue to be, regardless of which political office he comes to hold.

It is likely that neither candidate will be able to implement their campaign promises, as they will suffer strong opposition from Congress, says BBC. For far too long, Haddad’s political party has failed to uphold the promises that contributed to the previous successful presidential campaigns for former presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff.

In spite of all the mistakes the Workers’ Party has made, nothing can justify the election of a candidate who has no respect for democracy and the rule of law. Voters want change, but the opportunity cost cannot be the election of a pro-torture candidate.

Mr. Bolsonaro refers to the country’s previous military dictatorship, one of the most violent periods of Brazilian history, with nostalgia. His election would mean throwing democracy under the bus, and with it, the very institutions that could create the changes that voters seek.

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