October 4, 2022

Brazil’s Election

Brazil’s top two presidential candidates will face each other in a runoff vote after neither got enough support to win outright Sunday in an election to decide if the country returns a leftist to the helm of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps the far-right incumbent in office. With 99.9% of [the] votes tallied, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had 48.4% support and President Jair Bolsonaro had 43.2%.” AP News

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From the Left

The left praises Lula and criticizes Bolsonaro’s authoritarian leanings.

“Widely admired by the end of his second mandate in 2011 with an approval rating of 87 percent, Lula left office as the most popular president in Brazilian history, only to see his successor, Dilma Rousseff, fall victim to an impeachment process in 2016 that many described as a parliamentary coup. His Workers’ Party (PT) was increasingly demonized by a resurgent right, and Lula himself was eventually arrested on charges of corruption, which prevented him from running in the 2018 presidential race…

“Following the annulment of his conviction… Lula was once again widely regarded as the front-runner for the 2022 election. The former president could have chosen to pursue a campaign based on avenging his arrest and condemning the Brazilian right and his former opponents who so avidly supported both Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and ‘Operation Carwash,’ the politically biased investigation that put Lula in prison. Instead, Lula pursued a policy of conciliation against the perceived greater threat of Bolsonaro’s far-right government…

“Both major candidates had clear and distinct campaign strategies, with one defending democratic values and political pragmatism while the other drifted increasingly toward hero worship and an authoritarian discourse.”

Olavo Passos de Souza, Jacobin Magazine

“Bolsonaro reportedly has directed government funding in ways designed to win favor with voters — experts say these moves are illegal…

“The government issued a decree to redirect funds earmarked for scientific and cultural policies to pay for spending projects in the congressional districts of Bolsonaro allies. These payments occur through a special budgetary provision, created under Bolsonaro, with so little transparency that it has become known as the ‘secret budget.’ The Federal Court of Accounts, which oversees public spending in Brazil, called this budgetary provision an ‘escape route from constitutional restrictions.’…

“Breaking with tradition, Bolsonaro also nominated allies to lead the attorney general’s office and the federal police. These independent institutions investigate abuses of power during elections, so this move appears to leave Bolsonaro more free to engineer his reelection, without fear of repercussions.”

Fernando Bizzarro, Washington Post

“The one certainty going into the next four weeks is that the bitter rhetoric, campaign violence and threats of defiance will worsen. Already late on Sunday, the incumbent president’s supporters were throwing around unsubstantiated accusations of fraud and wrongdoing on social media, while he himself reverted to hints of Lula’s supposed allegiance with the far left… Even if he is defeated, as still seems likely given high rejection rates among voters, Bolsonarismo looks set to outlast him.”

Clara Ferreira Marques, Bloomberg

From the Right

The right praises Bolsonaro’s economic reforms.

The right praises Bolsonaro’s economic reforms.

“[Bolsonaro’s] economic team has improved Brazil’s investment climate, opened the telecom market, and rescinded cabotage laws that restrict trade. Spending has been restrained even as transfers to the poor have increased…

“The Brazilian economy has surprised on the upside, growing 2.4% in the first six months of this year. The Bolsonaro economic team says that in a second term it will work for lower tax rates and a simplified tax system, more privatization and a restructured electricity market. It wants Brazil to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of developed nations. Lula also wants faster growth, but his way to get there is by giving the state a larger role in the economy. He opposes privatization and favors protectionism.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Brazilians fed up with the burdens of a top-heavy state are delighted with the Bolsonaro government’s regulatory reforms. They want more. Lula may not easily reverse those reforms, but there’s little confidence that he would use his political capital to go further. Add to this Mr. Bolsonaro’s cultural conservatism in a country where many feel oppressed by woke politics…

“The chattering classes have not caught up with the part of Brazil that wants to compete in the world. But Mr. Bolsonaro’s government has tapped into it. Unfortunately he’s made a lot of unforced errors. His confrontational, and often vulgar, style, including criticism of the Supreme Court, fuels high negatives. By questioning the reliability of Brazil’s electronic voting system, he made it easy for critics, offended by his uncouth manners and his resistance to environmental activism, to tag him as ‘antidemocratic.’ Oct. 30 will offer him a second chance to win over the Brazilian electorate.”

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

“National populists of all stripes share two common themes: a fair distribution of economic power and the preservation of identity. The modern political economy favored by elites tends to denigrate both sentiments. If regions are depressed, elites argue, it is either the sad byproduct of immutable economic laws or the failure of that region’s residents. And efforts to maintain some communal values — whether national or religious — are frowned upon, if not outright dismissed…

“National populism’s continued appeal worldwide should force global elites to rethink their tired approaches to problems. It is clear that anathematizing populists and ignoring their views does not snuff out their movements. On the contrary, trying to cordon off political sentiments seems only to throw fuel on the populist fires…

“Global elites had hoped that populism would be decisively rejected in elections this year. Instead — in Sweden, Italy and now Brazil — they have continued to show strong appeal. The United States may follow suit in its midterms. Let those who have ears hear.”

Henry Olsen, Washington Post

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