Bolsonaro supporters in the streets of Rio de Janeiro this Sunday evening CARL DE SOUZA (AFP)
In the world history of demographic triggers, these Brazilian elections have a place of honor. The country’s legislation allowed the publication of polls up to Saturday itself, and the figures from the country’s most renowned institutes offered little difference: The only question that remains is whether Lula da Silva will start with a voting intention of around 50 percent and more than ten points ahead of Jair Bolsonaro, he already won or should wait for the second round. The polling stations are open, and those in charge of the demographic institutes have to slit their wrists right away. Not only will there be a second round, but it will also be much more controversial than expected.
There are only two explanations for this: either the Brazilian polling institutes are a disaster – and the records indicate otherwise – or the citizens have cynically lied to them. Admitting that you’re voting for a rude and violent guy who spends his life insulting and threatening half the world shouldn’t be a very pleasant dish. The polls more or less came close to Lula’s harvest, but Bolsonaro was grossly underestimated.
The gap between what the polls drew and what the polls showed is that between what seemed like a country poised to mend wounds and a real country completely divided. Brazil is heading into a pre-election month amid extreme polarization. And it gives Bolsonaro a golden opportunity to continue waving his delusional insinuations of voter fraud and his coup threats.
Bolsonaro didn’t just compete with Lula. Opposed to him were some of the main media, key centre-right figures, even certain sectors of the business world, all traditionally hostile to Lula but now seeing him as the only way to defend democratic institutions, rocked by four years of Bolsonarist bullying. Surely everyone underestimated how far the former parachute captain’s brutal language had penetrated society. A man who has repeatedly flirted with the coup; that he insulted Supreme Court justices, women, indigenous peoples and journalists; who fought vaccines while tens of thousands of Brazilians died from Covid; that left the Amazon at the mercy of landowners and prospectors…. This man has clearly topped 40% of the vote after four years of showing his incompetence and not even having the winds of the economy blow in his favor. Everything also indicates that his supporters will have a strong presence in Congress.
The seeds of Bolsonarianism have taken root in Brazilian society. And most of the white middle class has not forgotten their deep hatred for the first son of a poor family to achieve the country’s presidency. Lula warned during the election campaign: “We will defeat Bolsonaro, but Bolsonarism will continue.” At the moment, the first is not even guaranteed.
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