By Laetitia Sanai
London, United Kingdom
Protesters have taken to the streets of Brazil’s major cities of São Paulo and Brasilia to defend democratic rights, following concerns about the fairness of upcoming general elections in October which determine whether the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, will get re-elected.
Fears over threats to democracy have emerged following current right-wing President Jair
Bolsonaro’s denouncing of the legitimacy of Brazil’s electronic voting system, with much of the population concerned they may not be able to vote in fair elections after Bolsonaro expressed his party may not accept the result if the voting system is not changed to his favored printed ballots. This claim is unsettlingly similar to that made by former U.S. President Donald Trump—a figure much admired by Bolsonaro—whose baseless claims of voting fraud spurred the U.S. Capitol Attacks of January 6th 2021. Protestors desperately defending democracy held up banners stating ‘A state for the people’ and ‘Respect the Vote’, with thousands taking to the streets and gathering outside the University of São Paolo’s Law School. There, a petition titled ‘In defense of democracy’ was read, which highlighted the threat posed to democratic rights without explicitly mentioning Bolsonaro by name. It stressed the importance of avoiding the “consolidation of the dictatorship of single thought,” and how the people are experiencing a “moment of great peril for democratic normality.”
Bolsonaro’s determination at fueling doubt surrounding voter fraud precedes polls showing his potential loss in the upcoming October elections. Opinion polls show other frontrunner leftist, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (aka Lula), former president from 2003 to 2010, as having the lead over Bolsonaro, with Datafolher recording a 15% domination by Lula (gaining 47% of the vote from those interviewed) over Bolsonaro (only 32%). However, Lula’s 15% lead is down from an 18% stronghold as of June 2022, with Bolsonaro’s popularity rising despite widespread outbursts against his leadership.
This comes as a result of Bolsonaro’s attempts at drawing support from the lower to middle income demographic through his unveiling of a social spending package. This will inject $32.4 billion into the Brazilian economy, exceeding the spending cap, to permit loans for credit-lacking workers and bring forward end-of-year bonuses. Bolsonaro’s plans for excess spending will no doubt bolster support from the desired voting demographic, but at the cost of perpetuating Brazil’s current 10% inflation rate. It is uncertain as to whether it will significantly impact Brazil’s GDP, which is predicted to expand by approximately 0.5% this year.
Will Bolsonaro take on criticisms from a population defending democracy in an era when voting fraud claims have been seen to be a key influential force in elections? In the run-up to the Brazilian general elections, it is hoped that Bolsonaro will recognize and address these legitimate claims in order to protect democracy for a fair election of leadership. To, as the people put it, ‘respect’ the outcome.