Brazil: «Lulapalooza» elections threatened by Bolsonaro's trumpism

Following a very divisive first round that saw candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, leftist representative and former Prez in 2003-10, winning over (with 48.3% of votes) far-right incumbent President Jair Messias Bolsonaro by 5%, despite not getting to the 50% threshold that would have let him avoid the runoff - speculations are rising over the second round of Presidential elections on October 30th.

The expectations of the left

Bolsonaro’s voting rates outperformed all predictions, leaving the prospect of a Nation that is indeed not as unified against Bolsonarism as it seemed to be. Leftist supporters truly counted on a widespread disagreement on the incumbent President, mainly on his mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic that allegedly killed 700 000 Brazilians (and counting), due to undermining vaccination and containment efforts. The President is also notoriously known for his critical statements towards women, the LGBT+ community, abortion, and, first and strongly, against the democratic institutions of Brazil, several times and across months - statements that have elicited warnings by Western Countries (USA above all) on the respect of the democracy. The reputation the far-right gained overall internationally had evidently seemed as a sufficient cause for the Brazilian left to have guarantee of enough votes to win elections in one round; however, the confidence of Lula’s faction waivered slightly at the outcome of October 2, though they still managed to keep composure by comparing the runoff to a “15 minutes extra-time” of a football match that is going to be won anyway, a metaphor that easily suits soccer’s popularity in the Country.

The School of Athens of Brazil

> comparison of the debate between the 2 candidates with Raphael’s School of Athens, exposing their antinomical positions.

The public debate (broadcasted on Oct. 14) between Lula and Bolsonaro reflected the same situation. According to analysts like Christian Lynch, the debate was overall won by Lula, but barely; hinting at another soccer comparison, “it is like a football match in which a team scored 5 goals in the first half, but endured 4 in the second half”, denoting the blurred line between a victory presumed and an unexpected turn on events. The topics addressed during the debate - to name a few, the pandemic resolutions, the destiny of the Amazons (overexploited by private enterprises, with the accordance of Bolsonaro) and of the corruption of the directors of petrolão National company Petrobras, belonging to the Laborers’ Party Lula is part of - exposed the intentions of Bolsonaro towards gaining the trust of the lower classes through focusing great attention on the poorest sectors of society and their fear of inflation while downgrading Lula’s ideas on human rights, and Lula’s attempt to reassure his despaired voters of the possibility of being able to turn the tables in the second run of elections.

What is the voice of the people saying right now?

As of Oct. 24, an Atlas survey conducted between Oct. 18 - 22 on 4500 people, shows 53% intention of valid votes towards Lula and 47% approximately on Bolsonaro; an IPEC poll shows 50% support on the left and 43% on the far right. However, these estimates were made before the shooting incident on Sunday by supporter of Bolsonaro and former Congressman Roberto Jefferson on the police, who had come to arrest him for having violated house arrest - which may compromise the right’s reputation further.

Trumpism on the horizon and media power

The major threat for the election is, nevertheless, Bolsonaro’s statement during the debate, about his intention of not leaving office if defeated, raising concerns of a Trump-like insurrection among his supporters if Lula wins.

The concern is as real as ever: the contemporary world has seen with their own eyes the effect of such statements in Capitol Hill revolts, in the Country that is supposed to be the core of Democracy - there is proof it may happen, especially in the Nation of «ordem et progresso» that was so looked up to internationally in the recent past.

Trump served as a blueprint of Bolsonaro: through means of mass media and television, persuasive visual tools, they both were able to get into the daily life of the citizens of their respective countries and throw fake news about voting frauds - the vulnerability of the electronic voting system in Brazil. Bolsonarist argumentations on the matter have gathered throughout the months consistently, making questioning the institutions a part of his ideology.

The hot issue about this is that, by implying he will most likely rebel against any voting result that goes to his detriment, the fuelled mistrust will altogether cause a bigger attack to the legitimate course of the making of the State, amplified by the media coverage in a multiplying effect.

Acknowledgement of defeat by the loser party after elections is the most important moment after the winner’s speech in terms of media events, as it brings up two major consequences: the renewal of faith in the legitimacy of the social system, and the reassurance of the supporters of the loser, by granting respect on the winning party. Bolsonaro is aware of his power on the poorest people, mostly illiterate and that rely on his populist assumptions: his work on social media is grand to this extent, constantly updating people through visuals, videos and lives, as well as using populist syllogisms that make common sense on a superficial level.

By publicly neglecting his defeat, Bolsonaro will exactly fuel distrust and unsettlement in his voters (which approximately make up half of the voting population), to the big disadvantage of Lula. That is what brought the latter to express, during a conference in Sao Paulo, his hope that Bolsonaro “will have a moment of sanity and phone me to accept the election result”, adding “If Bolsonaro loses and he wants to cry … I lost three elections, [...] Each time I lost, I went home. I didn’t keep cursing, being agitated.” Lula is trying to argue it in a position that would ridicule his attempt to recourse to baseless claims of vote fraud, knowing the real danger behind it.

A Brazillion things to consider for the near future

Can we say the winning of Lula is going to happen, provided the right faction’s behavior as of late? No we cannot, as much as we cannot infer Bolsonaro’s exact actions whether he will win or not. However, we must be aware of the power of the representative of the far-right in the communication to the people and agreements with private corporations, his reliance on principles of Christianity while keeping a distance from the Church (so as to enhance his own reliability). Bolsonaro’s threat “i win or i rebel” may become a concrete danger for the sake of the sacred institutional deployment, but we are counting the days to see the actual dynamics unfold.

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