1664691622 Brazil election with worldwide impact

Brazil: election with “worldwide impact”

“Brazil is a country characterized by extreme contradictions,” Brazil expert Niklas Franzen tells ORF.at. He himself lived for several years in the largest country in Latin America, worked as a correspondent in São Paulo and recently published a book entitled “Brazil uber alles. Bolsonaro and the revolt of the right”. The specialist speaks of extreme inequalities in Brazil, of a polarization that is “worrying to threatening”.

The strong contradiction is also reflected in the field of candidates for the presidential election. The candidates are Lula da Silva, a left-wing figurehead, former president and candidate of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party (PT), and Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, former military man and candidate for the archconservative Liberal Party. PL).

“The most polarizing figures in Brazilian politics”

The “Washington Post” (“WP”) also speaks of “the most polarizing figures in Brazilian politics”. According to Franzen, both represent certain portions of the population. This is particularly important for the presidential election. Because it is not a party or a program that is elected, but a personality.

A man stands in front of electoral posters of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and current President Jair Bolsonaro

Portal/Ueslei Marcelino Bolsonaro or Lula? Brazil is deeply divided ahead of elections

“Bolsonaro left many wounds”

Both Lula and Bolsonaro have already demonstrated their skills as presidents, Lula from 2003 to 2010, Bolsonaro since 2018. Four years later, Franzen attests: “Bolsonaro turned the country upside down. And leave many wounds behind.” The changes can be seen in “almost all social and political areas”.

book reference

Niklas Franzen: Brazil above all. Bolsonaro and the revolt of the right. Association A, 207 pages, 18 euros.

Bolsonaro liberalized once strict gun laws, strengthened the influence of reactionary evangelicals in the state and created a “new political culture of hate with clear images of enemies”. Supporters of Bolsonaro’s policies, for their part, praise his rigid line of “law and order” and his neoliberal economic course.

forest invasion

Changes in environmental policy are particularly evident. “Bolsonaro crushed environmental and indigenous authorities. He appointed officials loyal to the line in all state bodies. As a result, the authorities that were supposed to carry out environmental controls can no longer act.” With devastating consequences, according to Franzen.

Brazil before the elections

Current Brazilian President Bolsonaro could be ousted on Sunday. Former President Lula challenges him. The election campaign is bitterly fought until the last minute.

In the Brazilian rainforest there was a real invasion “with the support of the government”, Franzen said of the massive deforestation in the Amazon. This has an impact on the region’s biodiversity, but also on the habitats of indigenous communities. And last but not least, also about the global climate, since the rainforest is considered the “green lung” of the earth and, according to Franzen, “front line” in the fight against the climate crisis.

Latin America professor and Brazil expert Ursula Prutsch told ORF.at that if Lula wins, special deforestation monitoring programs will likely be reintroduced, but Lula’s government once represented a very classic idea of ​​economic development. As an example, she cites the great Belo Monte dam project in the Amazon. “I hope that Lula has also learned from his administration’s mistakes,” said Prutsch.

Belo Monte Dam in Altamira, Pará

AP/Andre Penner Belo Monte Dam in the Amazon – built under Lula

Poverty as the main problem

Despite the great importance of Brazilian environmental policy in the world, the climate crisis in the country and in the electoral campaign itself is not important, explains Franzen. This probably has to do with the fact that there are issues considered more urgent, the expert refers to the “dramatic” economic misery of the country. “High inflation, high unemployment, almost all Brazilians feel it. A large part of the population has fallen into poverty. 33 million are starving again.”

What is chosen?

In Brazil, on October 2, not only the president, but also the parliament, governors and state parliaments will be elected.

That’s where Lula comes into the picture. With social programs, he once managed to lift millions of people out of abject poverty during his tenure.

Reason: Good old days

Even if many structural reforms fail to materialize and corruption flourishes during his term, Lula would represent “better times”, says Franzen. “I think a lot of people are looking at this term with a little nostalgia.” Lula has already announced that he will make the fight against poverty a “top priority”, according to Franzen.

However, Prutsch refers to the fact that these “positive, good and economically victorious years of the Lula government” were simply based on the then very high world market prices of agricultural products, oil and iron ore – goods that Brazil exports. in large quantity. When world market prices began to fall again, there was consequently no money for generous social programs.

Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a campaign event for the presidential election

APA/AFP/Michael Dantas For many Brazilians, Lula represents “better times”

Lula between “adoration and contempt”

But Lula also moves voters with his own life story: “He himself was a poor rural refugee before he became a union leader and entered politics,” says Franzen. He also presents himself as a great conciliator, as an anti-Bolsonaro and as a president of all.

While Lula is revered by some for his social policy, the WP writes, he is despised by others as a “symbol of corruption.” In fact, in 2018, the former president himself was sentenced to a long prison term for corruption and money laundering. Last year, a Supreme Court judge reversed the decision and Lula regained his political rights.


Brazil: evangelical advance

Lula was also met with international criticism in early May, when he blamed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the war “as much as” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Risky anti-Bolsonaro alliance?

Above all, however, is the question of how much leeway Lula will have “for big changes”, according to Franzen. He is already seeking an orientation towards the center, for example, with the election of a Conservative as a candidate for vice president.

“Lula has to find broad coalitions and majorities and therefore has to make a lot of compromises.” Franzen believes a center-left government is more likely than a socialist one. “Le Monde Diplomatique” (“LMD”) writes about a “risky anti-Bolsonaro alliance” that Lula is forging here with former political enemies and thus alienating many leftists.

Expert: Images like Capitol Storm are possible

Meanwhile, according to Franzen, Bolsonaro is doing “everything to delegitimize the democratic process itself”. Even before the election, the incumbent said that only God could remove him from the presidency. It also fueled doubts about the electronic voting system. More recently, however, Bolsonaro has adopted a conciliatory tone and announced that he wanted to accept defeat – probably also given the poll numbers.

However: “One can assume that the protests will occur in the event of an electoral defeat,” says Franzen. “And there is a possibility that there will be images like the Capitol storm in Washington.” However, the expert denies that there could be a coup. There is not enough public support for this. The “WP” also writes about a “climate of fear” that was already being felt during the electoral campaign and also manifested itself in politically motivated assassinations – both in Bolsonaro’s camp and in Lula’s.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Independence Celebrations on September 7, 2022

APA/AFP/Evaristo Sa Bolsonaro is behind Lula in the polls

“Democracy is at stake”

Franzen finally warns against jumping to conclusions before the result is available: “It is extremely dangerous to think that the election has already been decided.” There are many indications of a second round in late October.

Both experts are convinced that a second Bolsonaro term would have far-reaching consequences. For Prutsch, it is a “choice of direction, because the existence and future of one of the largest democracies in the world are in danger”. Franzen similarly comments: “Lessons from other authoritarian countries show that when an authoritarian candidate is re-elected, the floodgates open for more fundamental changes.”

In the event of re-election, Bolsonaro will seek to further undermine the foundations of the state – whether it be restructuring the judiciary, implementing controversial reforms or further criminalizing social movements. “Everything indicates that if Bolsonaro wins this election, he will be closer to a clear right-wing authoritarian regime.”