Brazil's Bolsonaro is in the fight for his political life 

August 7, 2021 - 19:55

The self-styled Donald Trump of Brazil is following similar tactics that led to the former American president failing to secure a second term in office. 

As his popularity tumbles, Jair Bolsonaro, like Trump, is sowing doubts over Brazil’s upcoming presidential election, with the goal of allowing him to dispute or reject the outcome.

In a social media webcast to supporters, Bolsonaro claimed potential voter fraud in Brazil’s elections saying "I want elections next year, but clean, democratic and sincere elections" 

The far-right president has called for the adoption of printed ballots that can be counted, alleging that it is necessary to avoid fraud in an electronic voting system. 

Despite vowing to provide evidence to back up his claims, Bolsonaro, who openly admires, Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship, has failed to do so. He has admitted to not holding any proof, only “indications”.

That has prompted the top electoral authority to investigate potentially “criminal” propagation of groundless vote-rigging claims.

Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) unanimously voted to launch the inquiry and asked the Supreme Court to also investigate Bolsonaro over “possible criminal conduct” for spreading fake news. 

The court says it will investigate the President over improper use of official communication channels, corruption, fraud and other potential crimes in his attacks on electronic voting.

In a statement, the 18 judges who sit on the TSE said "Brazil has eliminated a history of election fraud" 
The judges argued that all the election steps are monitored by political parties, prosecutors, federal police, universities and the Brazilian Bar Association saying "the electronic voting system is subject to audits before, during and after the election," 

The statement added printed ballots are less safe than electronic voting, and that if Brazil goes back to manual counting of 150 million printed ballots, the chances of fraud would be higher.

Nevertheless, on Thursday a congressional committee voted on the proposal to introduce paper ballots, but the president suffered a defeat. 

The TSE president, Luis Roberto Barroso says “Threatening the realization of an election represents anti-democratic behavior… Polluting the public debate with disinformation, lies, hatred and conspiracy theories represents anti-democratic behavior.”

He added that “wrong things are happening in our country and all of us must be alert”

The outcome of the probe may put Brazil’s president at risk of being disqualified from running in next year’s election race. 

The president has hit back at the probe pledging not to be “intimidated” saying "this investigation is not within the bounds of the constitution, so the antidote to this is also not within the bounds of the constitution" 

He has also suggested he might not accept the electorate’s final decision, calling on his supporters to take to the streets. The statements will bring back memories of the way former U.S. President and top ally, Donald Trump, called on his supporters to march on Capitol Hill; a dark deadly chapter in America’s political history that led to an insurrection.  

Bolsonaro’s campaign to undermine confidence in the election has all the echoes of Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign. 

In an editorial, top Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, has praised efforts to challenge Bolsonaro’s campaign against Brazil’s voting system, which it described as “nothing more than an attack on democracy”.

The paper warned that “Bolsonaro is lying shamelessly in order to be able to challenge the election result in case he is defeated next year, just as Donald Trump did in the United States”

The new investigation means the former army captain’s legal problems have intensified. A criminal court is already probing possible corruption amid accusations he failed to act on warnings over alleged irregularities by aides who purchased Covid vaccines. 

New information from a senate probe has shown how vaccine shortages are linked to corruption. The investigation is looking into potential multimillion-dollar kickback schemes. Bolsonaro rejects the accusations. 

In any case, a disaster has already taken place in Brazil.

Just like his political icon Trump, Bolsonaro downplayed the coronavirus Pandemic calling the deadly highly transmissible disease “a little flue”. He also mismanaged the virus, while showing bad leadership by publicly not adhering to health protocols and calling on Brazilians to follow suit. 

That has caused the Latin American nation to become the second worst-hit country in the world in terms of containing Covid with 560,000 people dead so far and 20 million others infected. Only the United States has a higher death toll. 

Meanwhile, in an apparent rebuke of Bolsonaro's threats against the 2022 elections, Hundreds of Brazilian business leaders, who represent large banks and other companies have published a letter titled "Elections will be respected".

The letter reads "The principle of a healthy democracy is that elections are held and all involved accept its results". The letter has also been signed by economists, diplomats and representatives of civil society; and will pile pressure on the government. 

The human and economic pain with rising living costs has also damaged Bolsonaro’s standing. 

In the last two months, protesters have staged demonstrations nationwide calling for Bolsonaro’s impeachment, who is trailing in the polls to former leftwing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also a likely frontrunner in next year’s election.

Bolsonaro is now following the same stylebook as that of Trump; with his approval ratings at an all-time low, he is preparing excuses as polls indicate the Brazilian president is facing an electoral loss. 

But how will this set the stage for the outcome of the elections?

Bolsonaro remains a contingent of hardcore supporters; which raises the fear of deadly post-election violence.

Just like Trump won the votes of the large Christian American evangelical community in the election, the former American president was never a religious individual himself, despite claiming to be one. 

Likewise Bolsonaro, despite his far-right views, came to power vowing to put “Brazil above everything and God above all”. He won around 70% of Christian voters. 

Now, the country’s 100 million Christians; of which Bolsonaro claims to be one, are extremely polarized on the politician. Many Christians are appalled at Bolsonaro’s claim to be the defender of their faith. 

At the last election, following a graft scandal, involving former President Dilma Rousseff, Brazilians split with two decades of 21st-century socialist rule. 

They may be ruing that decision now. 

More than half a million lives could have been saved with leadership that advocated health protocols amid a pandemic, not encouraged the public against following them. The economy is in shambles, while regular protests among the working class who feel abandoned are taking place. 

The left-wing Worker’ Party’s 21st-century social democracy brought to power President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the country's most popular ruler in history, more commonly referred to as simply President Lula. 

In 2002, when Lula’s Workers’ Party took the helm, 22 million Brazilians,  were considered by the World Bank as living below the poverty line. 

During his eight-year presidency, Brazil’s economy boomed, with the low and middle working class reaping the benefits. Poverty plunged and incomes and living standards soared. Lula left a legacy with the worker’s party’s that dropped the poverty rate from 22 million Brazilians to 9 million. 

His administration took important steps to ensure the poor were fully incorporated into a growing economy. It strengthened the national minimum wage as well as social security and unemployment insurance programs. The changes meant that the living standards of 50 million low-income Brazilians had been protected. 

Lula used the economic boom to give a monthly payment to poor mothers on the condition they keep their children in school and ensured they get regular health checkups. 

Lula’s goal of investing in future generations while raising the incomes of poor families won international praise. 

Today, under Bolsonaro’s handling of the economy, think tanks estimate at least 27 million are living below the poverty line. 

If the current president does make it to Election Day, Brazilians have an important decision to make.

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