as S.Ande high stakes As the presidential run-off between far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and his left-wing challenger Luis Inacio Lula da Silva approaches, Brazilian political analysts have two big questions. I kept going back. At first it was simply “who will win?” The second was more ominous.
The answer to my first question arrived late Sunday night. By a narrow margin, Lula clearly beat Bolsonaro with 51% to 49% of the vote.
All attention then shifted to the second question. During his tenure, Bolsonaro gave the army a more political role, and from 1964 until 1985 he praised the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil, appointing generals to senior posts in the regime.For the last few months he condemned He claimed the country’s voting system was rigged. Many seemed to suggest that he could follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump and try to stay in power even if he loses the election.
Lula gave the victory speech. Bolsonaro remained silent. The Supreme Court asked him to recognize the results of the election. Bolsonaro remained silent. Some of his own allies conceded his defeat. Bolsonaro remained silent. The suspense finally came to an end on Tuesday afternoon.A deflated Bolsonaro appeared before the press at his official residence in the capital Brasilia, surrounded by his entourage, he read brief statement“I’ve always been labeled an anti-democrat, but unlike my accuser, I’ve always played by the rules,” he said. “As president, as a citizen, I will continue to defend the Constitution.” Within two minutes, the normally high-profile president was out of sight.
Bolsonaro didn’t get to the point of conceding defeat or congratulating Lula, but the implications were clear. Unlike Trump, he never tried to stay in power.his chief of staff immediately Confirmed “President Bolsonaro has given me the power to… start the transition process.”
The extradition period is still going on.Bolsonaro’s most ardent supporters continue protest the election results. There are even calls for the military to intervene.As Philippe CampanteA professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (and a colleague of mine) told me the country was having a “low-key, slow-motion January 6th.” But, as Campante has also stressed, the odds of a coup d’état are much higher.
The possible failure of Bolsonaro to retain the presidency is a key moment in the protracted struggle between democrats and demagogues. As Brazil has shown, even democracies that elect anti-democratic leaders can prove resilient enough to stop them from seizing power. It should give hope to those struggling to maintain democratic institutions against the powerful in the world. At the same time, Brazil is another sign that the authoritarian populist threat is taking hold. Bolsonaro still holds the support of nearly half the country, and like the man who replaced him now, he may one day make a comeback.
apopulist leader Although it has become more pronounced over the past decade, it is unclear how long this trend will continue. some commentators Their government thought it would soon collapse under the weight of their own contradictions. others argued Populist governments have proven to be very durable in the past, in part because many of them have succeeded in concentrating power in their own hands. However, once these populists are re-elected, the results of these contests provide evidence that may resolve this controversy.
The first big reason for optimism was when Joe Biden defeated Trump in 2020, showing that ousting authoritarian populists from the presidency is possible through the ballot box. Lula’s replay of Biden’s exploits in his fourth-largest democracy in the world supports that claim.
Taken together, the defeats of Trump and Bolsonaro reveal why many populists find it difficult to remain popular and win re-election. When populists first gain influence, on the contrary, they usually combine the lack of any substantive record in government with the promise of a radical departure from the status quo. This allows them to attack the flaws and hypocrisy of the political system, both real and perceived. As such, they can position themselves as truth tellers and be able to “leave the crap” and actually serve the public, for example, by raising living standards.
Even a lack of support within mainstream institutions and political movements can benefit populists. The rise of Trump is a good example. Polls consistently showed that most Americans disapprove of the outrageous statements he made about women and immigrants in 2015 and his 2016.
When populists take office, they begin to lose their status as outsiders and their dominance fades. Before coming to power, populists have an incentive to overpromise. Once in government, they find it impossible to keep their promises. Because of their inexperience, many populists make avoidable mistakes that weaken their position. They may be struggling with basic capacities by mismanaging the economy or by failing to cope with unforeseen emergencies like a pandemic.
Populists claim to represent the true voice of the people and usually short-circuit democratic control once in power. But their campaign is so polarized that it tears the country in two and mobilizes its enemies. Especially in large countries like Brazil and the United States, where power is geographically dispersed, opposition parties usually hold important positions to slow the concentration of power, such as strong representation in parliament and control of some cities and states. holding means.
All these factors help explain Bolsonaro’s defeat. The rapid economic growth he promised never materialized. His response to the pandemic was a deadly disaster. He has been unable to obtain consistent control over the Brazilian parliament. By the end of his term, in the eyes of many voters, he was defined by his failures and had yet to amass the power to defy their will.
D.In spite of the If Trump and Bolsonaro lose the election, it would be unwise for the opposition to declare victory prematurely.
When Biden took office in January 2021, many observers decided that Trump had finally lost his grip on the country, and possibly his party. Less than two years later, these predictions seem simplistic. Biden’s victory was clear, but not commanding.his approval rating remain Nearly a record low for a first-term president at this stage of his term. Meanwhile, Trump has maintained a devoted fan base and has managed to wipe out most of his critics from the Republican Party. Towards 2024a return to the White House is far from unimaginable.
Bolsonaro may prove equally resilient. He had just over two million votes that separated him from Lula. Brazil is more unequal than the US and definitely more polarized. These divisions make it easy for Bolsonaro to continue to stir up dissatisfaction with his base. Lula’s revival relied on a broader coalition, but he rose to power as a proud leftist, winning the fierce and perhaps enduring animosity of nearly half the country.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro will likely retain the ardent support of the majority of voters and be well-positioned to take advantage of the next political opportunity. Bolsonaro may regain momentum by blaming the government for people’s grievances, even if Bolsonaro suffers misfortunes outside the control of the new president. It is rampant in Brazil, and some of his more extreme supporters are trying to drive him to unpopular policies.
T.It is here 2 competing narratives On what the results of the Brazilian elections mean. Some see Bolsonaro’s defeat as an indication that the populist wave has finally reached its apex. Others see his support among the 58 million Brazilians who voted for him as an indication that democracy remains as difficult as it has been. His two interpretations are not as far apart as they seem.
When authoritarian populists come to power, they usually do a lot of damage to democratic institutions. However, this does not mean that they are guaranteed to win. In many cases, they eventually lose their hold on power.
Conversely, when authoritarian populists lose power, the most serious threats to democracy usually subside for several years. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. Authoritarian populists can maintain the ability to shape the political system out of the opposition. You can even make a seemingly unlikely comeback, like Benjamin Netanyahu did in Israel.
All of this suggests that neither a resurgence of democratic triumphs nor a decisive defeat of populism is likely in the coming decades. Rather, authoritarian populists like Trump and Bolsonaro will be a major part of the political landscape. The fight against populism is not a passing phenomenon and will soon be resolved in favor of either democracy or fascism. This is the new normal for the troubled yet resilient democracies of the world. .