The presidential election in Brazil will have direct consequences for the region. The fate of Brazilian democracy and the political direction of the largest country in South America will produce a great shock, whose shock waves and aftershocks will affect all the other countries around it. The reflections of this Brazilian process will also be felt on other continents, impacting the course of distant elections and the rebalancing of forces on a global scale.
This chain reaction is not only related to the fact that Brazil is a large country, of continental dimensions, whose agricultural, livestock and mining production is directly connected to the largest world markets. Nor is it something that can be explained solely by the fact that Brazil is home to most of the Amazon rainforest, a biome that is central to the future of humanity right now.
It is true that all these factors are important. However, there is one aspect of this election that makes it decisive not only for Brazilians, but for a large part of the international community. The Brazilian presidential election of 2022 will define the course of democracy itself and its ability to resist a new type of harassment, coming from sectors of a new global populist extreme right, which we have seen in action in the US, Italy, Hungary and Poland .
The current president, Jair Bolsonaro, was chosen in 2018 as one of the greatest exponents of this new sector worldwide. He campaigned praising the 1964 military coup that established a 21-year dictatorship in Brazil. In his interviews, he said that the Brazilian military regime killed few. He should have killed more. Bolsonaro idolizes generals who have been sentenced for torture in Brazil.
His political proposal is situated at such a radical pole of the global extreme right that, after his four years in office, he ended up pushing the traditional left and right into the same coalition. In this election, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and former São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin are running together as president and vice president, respectively. The two have always been rivals with each other. Lula’s PT and the PSDB, Alckmin’s party of origin, fought for a long time as the biggest adversaries in Brazil. Despite the great ideological differences and mutual attacks, both were located at the same pole: the democratic pole.
Under the Bolsonaro government, political violence has increased. In his four years in office, he expanded the use of firearms in Brazil. In the 16 Brazilian states that won the 2018 elections, the growth of permits for the possession of firearms grew by more than 300%. During the current campaign there have been political assassinations of enormous repercussion, with deadly attacks by Bolsonaro militants against voters from the opposite camp. According to a survey by the Datafolha Institute, 67% of Brazilian voters say they are afraid of political violence and 9% admit not voting for it.
Bolsonaro is behind Lula in all the polls. No major Brazilian institute says that the current president is in a position to be re-elected. There is even the possibility that Bolsonaro will be defeated in the first round. But none of that matters to him. The president tells his supporters that the polls are lying and that he will win in the first round.
In July, a group of Brazilian civil society organizations was in Washington, meeting with members of the State Department and with members of the House and Senate. In these meetings, the request was only one: that they recognize the result of the October elections in Brazil and that they greet the newly elected president, whoever he may be, to prevent Bolsonaro from trying to subvert the process, as Trump did on January 6, 2021 in the US
The four years of Bolsonaro have been an earthquake for civil society, human rights, the environment and democracy in Brazil. The damage is done. The reflections are felt far beyond the Brazilian borders. But in this election, the country has the opportunity to rebuild itself and relive the political-ideological disputes in a clean way, within the limits of democracy. Without that, the Brazilian collapse will end up dragging with it other countries in the world, where the exponents of this new extreme right will also feel encouraged to venture.