A Challenge to Brazil’s Democracy in 2018
Written by Andrew Allen
On October 7th, Brazil will hold the first round of its national elections on the heels of a severe political and economic crisis. A combination of economic failures and rampant corruption have led to widespread disenchantment with Brazil’s political system, and have led to the immense popularity of a candidate who poses a significant threat to democracy in Brazil: a far-right presidential candidate named Jair Bolsonaro
Bolsonaro, a controversial populist who has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump, is a former military captain who has run on a platform of political change (Carazza, 2018). Throughout Bolsonaro’s 29 years in the public sphere, his controversial comments and behavior have bespoken a dangerous affinity for authoritarianism and military rule. In 1999, Bolsonaro stated in a television interview that, if he were the president that, he would close the Congress and institute a coup d’etat. Bolsonaro went on to suggest that Brazil’s problems would only be solved by “doing what the military regime [of 1964 to 1988] didn’t do” and killing 30 thousand people, including then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Bragon, 2018) . Although the far-right politician has since stated that such comments were just “forceful expressions”, his recent actions also point to non-democratic tendencies.
In 2016, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to impeach then-President Dilma Roussef to a member of Brazil’s former dictatorial military regime who stands accused of torture and human rights abuses (Falcão, 2016). During his campaign this year, Bolsonaro has stated an intention to fill many of Brazil’s important cabinet positions with military leaders and appointed a retired general as his vice-presidential candidate (Klein, 2018).
In early September, Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen at one of his campaign rallies (Lopes, 2018). It is important to note that although Bolsonaro has been hospitalized since failed assassination attempt, his resolve and political support have remained strong, and he is currently leading in polls with between 26 and 28% of the vote (3). Likewise, his flair for anti-democratic behavior has also remained intact. In his first recorded statement to his supporters since the incident, Bolsonaro cast doubt on Brazil’s electoral process itself by declaring that the biggest challenge to his victory lay in the possibility of electoral fraud by the opposing Worker’s Party (Spring and Boadle, 2018). Such implications, which were readily accepted by Bolsonaro’s political base, could pave the way for the candidate to contest the legitimacy of the election and of Brazil’s democracy itself in the case of his defeat.
Bragon, Ranier. “Nos Anos 90, Bolsonaro Defendeu Novo Golpe Militar E Guerra.” Folha De S.Paulo. September 12, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2018/06/nos-anos-90-bolsonaro-defendeu-novo-golpe-militar-e-guerra.shtml.
Carazza, Bruno. “Will Brazil’s Next President Be a Far-Right Nationalist?” Foreign Affairs. July 16, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/brazil/2018-07-12/will-brazils-next-president-be-far-right-nationalist.
Falcão, Mário. “Bolsonaro Fez Apologia De Crime Na Votação Do Impeachment, Diz OAB.” Folha De S.Paulo. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2016/04/1763027-bolsonaro-fez-apologia-ao-crime-na-votacao-do-impeachment-diz-oab.shtml.
Klein, Cristian. “Bolsonaro Quer Governo Com Um Montão De Ministro Militar.” Valor Econômico. August 06, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.valor.com.br/politica/5715345/bolsonaro-quer-governo-com-um-montao-de-ministro-militar.
Lopes, Marina. “Brazilian Presidential Front-runner Is Stabbed While Campaigning.” The Washington Post. September 06, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/right-wing-brazilian-presidential-candidate-jair-bolsonaro-stabbed-while-campaigning/2018/09/06/62381332-b20b-11e8-8b53-50116768e499_story.html.
“Pesquisa Datafolha Para Presidente: Bolsonaro, 28%; Haddad, 16%; Ciro, 13%; Alckmin, 9%; Marina, 7%.” G1. September 20, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://g1.globo.com/politica/eleicoes/2018/noticia/2018/09/20/pesquisa-datafolha-para-presidente-bolsonaro-28-haddad-16-ciro-13-alckmin-9-marina-7.ghtml.
Spring, Jake, and Anthony Boadle. “Brazil Candidate Bolsonaro Attacks Workers Party from Hospital Bed.” Reuters. September 16, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-election-bolsonaro/brazil-candidate-bolsonaro-attacks-workers-party-from-hospital-bed-idUSKCN1LW0QO.