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In Brazil, fears of Jan. 6-style post-election violence increase as president casts doubt on voting system

  • October 5, 2022
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro waves during a military parade to celebrate the bicentennial of the country's independence from Portugal in Brasília, the capital, on Sept. 7. At left is his wife Michelle Bolsonaro and at right Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.  (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press - image credit)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro waves during a military parade to celebrate the bicentennial of the country’s independence from Portugal in Brasília, the capital, on Sept. 7. At left is his wife Michelle Bolsonaro and at right Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press – image credit)

To partisans across a stark political divide, Brazil’s upcoming election is nothing less than a battle for the future of democracy in South America’s largest nation.

Brazil’s Oct. 2 vote pits 76-year-old leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, against the far-right incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, a former congressman and army captain.

Analysts fear Brazil, home to more than 210 million people, could face political violence or something akin to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, as Bolsonaro has consistently tried to delegitimize the electoral system.

With anti-incumbency running high and Lula ahead in the polls, Brazil could become the latest Latin American country to shift to the political left, following recent elections in Colombia, Chile, Honduras and others.

“You have two candidates who represent very different attitudes toward Brazilian democracy as well as having different visions,” said Matthew Richmond, a research fellow who tracks Brazilian politics from the London School of Economics.

“If we are going to take Bolsonaro’s recent statements at face value, as we probably should, he is unlikely to accept the result.”

Andre Penner/The Associated Press

Andre Penner/The Associated Press

‘Only God will get me out,’ Bolsonaro says

Most opinion polls, including one from Genial/Quaest released earlier this month, show Lula holding a double-digit lead over Bolsonaro in the first round of balloting. Other candidates, including a senator and a former governor, are polling at less than 10 per cent and the race is widely considered a showdown between Bolsonaro and Lula.

Under Brazilian election rules,

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