The crisis of democracy and the 2022 elections

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By ANDRÉ FLORES

The fight against Bolsonarism will not end on October 30

This article was written for a foreign journal. For this reason, there is a brief digression on the crisis we have been experiencing in recent years, without which it is not possible to understand the meaning of the 2022 elections and politically assess their results. If the reader considers this introduction dispensable, I suggest that he start reading in the second part.

 

the brazilian crisis

The impeachment coup against President Dilma Rousseff in April 2016 unleashed social forces that those who perpetrated it, in particular international capital and the Brazilian bourgeoisie associated with it, were never able to control again. The mass movement of the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie, which initially took to the streets to demand the deposition of the PT government, gradually acquired fascist features and became radicalized as the party system was affected and discredited by the Lava Jato operation, becoming autonomous from the big bourgeoisie.

The judicial offensive directed from the US Department of Justice, which became the paradigm of imperialist interference in Latin America at the beginning of this century, was successful in dethroning the hegemony of the internal big bourgeoisie to resume, or, in some cases, deepen, the neoliberal policies of the 1990s. objective, the judicial offensive depended on the support and mobilization of the intermediate classes that opposed the PT governments, moved by class prejudice and anti-egalitarianism, whose social force was indispensable to bend the other state institutions and legitimize the arbitrariness and illegalities committed by the action of the justice system. Lava Jato's claim to purge the political system strengthened its fascist tendencies among the middle classes and petty bourgeoisie. The diffusion of the anti-political ideology aggravated the crisis of representation of the traditional bourgeois parties, creating the conditions “for a mediocre and grotesque character to play the role of hero” and lead a reactionary mass movement.

Jair Bolsonaro's rise to power, therefore, was not a bolt from the blue. It resulted from a particular combination of contradictions, which is precisely identified with what Nicos Poulantzas characterized, in fascism et dictature (1970), as the type of political crisis that allows the arrival of fascism to power: (1) The intensification of the distributive conflict of classes and of the disputes between the bourgeois fractions for the control of the state apparatus; (2) the offensive of the ruling bloc against the popular masses; (3) the successive defeats and defensiveness of the working classes; (4) the emergence of the petty-bourgeois and middle-class movement on the political scene; (5) the crisis of the traditional bourgeois parties and the rupture of relations between representatives and represented. It is a crisis of hegemony in which the ruling classes co-opt the rising reactionary movement to ensure control of the State apparatus and implement regressive measures against workers, who are demobilized and unable to outline a reaction.

Despite having risen spectacularly and at the national level as a representative of this mass reactionary movement, Jair Bolsonaro was only able to win the 2018 elections because Lula was arrested and had his political rights revoked. Even with all the damage caused by the judicial offensive and the growth of anti-PTism in society, Lula remained an uncontested political leader and with the preference of the majority of voters, especially among the poorest. The political character of his arrest became even more evident when Judge Sérgio Moro, who authored this decision, was appointed by Bolsonaro as Minister of Justice.

Once in government, Jair Bolsonaro promoted barbarism. He continued the neoliberal reforms implemented after the 2016 coup, which dramatically worsened the economic and social crisis in the country, leading 33 million people to extreme poverty and hunger. It spread scientific denialism during the Covid-19 pandemic, encouraging crowds, sabotaging social isolation measures and purposefully delaying the purchase of vaccines, making Brazil the second country with the most deaths in the world, with almost 700 thousand deaths, behind only the U.S.

In the environment, it dismantled the main inspection and control bodies, encouraging burning, land grabbing and illegal mining in indigenous lands. In foreign affairs, Brazil reached the status of an international pariah by associating itself with Trumpism and the fascist international led by Steve Bannon, assuming diplomatic isolation as the official line of its foreign policy. Domestically, he encouraged political violence and agitated the coup d'état day after day, arming his supporters and calling for demonstrations to close the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court.

Despite (or because of) this, Jair Bolsonaro's policy served specific and powerful social interests, which has guaranteed him, until now, impunity. Labor deregulations and privatizations unified the support of medium and large capital for the government, especially the retail commercial bourgeoisie, which demonstrated a more organic and explicit adherence to Bolsonarism. The distribution of thousands of civilian positions to the military in the government, the granting of perks and privileges to high-ranking officials, and the replacement of the Navy, Army and Air Force commands allowed Bolsonaro to establish his control over the armed forces. The conservative evangelical churches, which provided a popular base for the neo-fascist government, benefited from the increase in state advertising budgets for their radio and TV stations, and from the occupation of strategic positions for the ideological struggle against the feminist and LGBT movements ( such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights).

Patronage, clientelistic and physiological parties, which are characteristic of the Brazilian party system and which have a majority in the National Congress – known as “centrão” – joined the government during the Covid-19 crisis, after having obtained a significant increase in resources in the Federal budget to block the opening of impeachment requests against Bolsonaro. Landowners were favored by the dismantling of environmental protections and the flexibility of carrying weapons, which led to the worsening of deforestation and violence in the countryside, with the formation of militias that constitute the rural base of Brazilian fascism.

In urban centers, Bolsonarism advanced in the armed organization of its militant base, alarmingly expanding the registration of firearms and shooting clubs, and consolidating its influence over the lower echelons of the armed and security forces (including soldiers, corporals, sergeants and captains). Emulating Benito Mussolini, the Duce Brazilian has kept its base mobilized in “motociatas”, parades of Harley-Davidsons and luxury motorcycles that take place in several cities in the country with the participation of the president and his supporters.

In short, Jair Bolsonaro formed a powerful political front, involving his petty-bourgeois and upper-middle-class base, landowners, medium and big capital (especially the retail commercial bourgeoisie), the armed forces, evangelical churches conservative and the physiological and clientelistic parties.

However, due to its petty-bourgeois and middle-class nature, conflicts between Bolsonarism and big capital did not take long to develop. The conflict surrounding the denialist management of the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that three out of four deaths could have been avoided and aggravated the economic crisis in the country; the conflict surrounding the predatory environmental policy, which provoked retaliation from the international community and harmed the agro-export sector, which depends on environmental commitments adopted by the government to enter the European market; the conflict around Petrobras' fuel price policy, which directly affects truck drivers (a pioneering base of Bolsonarism) to the benefit of the state's shareholders; and the conflict over the democratic issue, which caused permanent political instability and contributed to scare away foreign investment. These conflicts precipitated the breakup of part of big capital and the formation of a bourgeois opposition to the government, the self-proclaimed “3a via".

The conflict between the bourgeoisie and Bolsonarism also had repercussions within state institutions, opposing the Bolsonaro government to the Federal Supreme Court (STF) and the National Congress. Throughout 2020, 2021 and 2022 Bolsonarism held mass demonstrations across the country, agitating its base for the closure of democratic institutions and for the coup d'état. In the midst of these conflicts, in April 2021, after a series of press reports that exposed illegal exchanges of messages between judge Sérgio Moro and Lava Jato prosecutors, which made the fraudulent and political nature of this operation even more evident, the STF annulled the lawsuits against former president Lula and returned his political rights. Since then, the 2022 election campaign has been brought forward and a picture of sharp polarization has been established between Lula and Bolsonaro, each of them being the expression of different and opposing mass phenomena.

If, on the one hand, Bolsonarism is the expression of Brazilian neo-fascism, as a reactionary mass movement of the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie, on the other hand, Lulism constitutes a neo-populist phenomenon, which represents a huge contingent of informal manual workers, corresponding to what Argentine sociologist José Nun classified it as a “marginal mass” and Brazilian economist Paul Singer classified it as a “subproletariat”.

Unlike Bolsonarism, which mobilizes and advances in the organization of its social base, Lulism is, in essence, demobilizing: it is constituted as a fundamentally electoral relationship, of gratitude from the beneficiaries of social policies to PT governments, and which refuses to organize and the political education of its social base. For this reason, according to political scientist André Singer, author of this concept, Lulism is not necessarily a left-wing phenomenon, but a popular phenomenon.

Supported by the electoral strength of marginal mass workers, the lower middle class, and the proletariat and peasantry organized in the union and peasant movements, Lula quickly occupied the top of the electoral polls for the 2022 elections, limiting the possibilities of growth for a candidacy. from “3a via". In view of this, the bourgeois opposition began to pressure Lula to assume the commitment to maintain the neoliberal reforms of the Temer and Jair Bolsonaro governments, setting a price for his eventual political support.

At the same time, part of the great national capital that had been prioritized by the economic policy of the PT governments began to openly declare the possibility of supporting Lula, in response to the policy of economic opening promoted by the neo-fascist government. In this way, the electoral strength of Lulism prevailed over the desires of the bourgeoisie, causing important realignments on the upper floor and the reactivation of what the political scientist Armando Boito conceptualized as a neo-developmentalist political front: a polyclassist front involving part of the great national capital, the low middle class, the proletariat and organized peasantry, and the unorganized workers of the marginal mass.

Even in the face of this polarization, the bourgeois opposition maintained the defense of its own candidacy, although some big capitalists declared their support for Lula in the first round. On the left side, organized around Lula, the 2022 elections were assumed to be the main (not to say almost exclusive) trench for confronting Bolsonarism, which led to the prioritization of summit agreements and the expansion of right-wing alliances such as gravitational axis of its political line. The nomination of Geraldo Alckmin as a vice-presidential candidate on Lula's list was perhaps the main sign of moderation in the candidacy for the bourgeois opposition. Former PT opponent and Lula's competitor in the 2006 elections, Alckmin has been acting as an interlocutor for big capital in the candidacy and as a guarantee that an eventual PT government will not be a left-wing government, but a center government.

Bolsonarism, in turn, maintained a double tactic: it continued with the illegal fight, threatening democracy and discrediting the electoral system, attacking the reliability of electronic voting machines; at the same time that it invested in the legal struggle, increasing social benefits during the electoral period to fracture the votes of the Lulista base. Recently, on September 7, Bolsonaro used the celebrations of the bicentennial of Independence to organize new coup demonstrations, which served as a demonstration of strength and as propaganda for his candidacy. Considering the coup as a process, the main objective of these demonstrations was not to summon the masses for an immediate assault on power, but to test the limits and reaction capacity of democratic institutions, keep the bases mobilized and anticipate non-compliance. recognition of an electoral result that is unfavorable to him.

In this dynamic, we arrived at the first round of the 2022 elections. Faced with the context of worsening political, economic, social and environmental crises, the 2022 elections acquired a plebiscitary nature, in addition to international and historical importance. Its results intervene decisively on the fate of the fight against global warming, whether or not the policy of deforestation in the Amazon continues; the struggle for regional integration and multilateralism, in the face of the growing division between the NATO states and the bloc led by Russia and China; and the fight against fascism, given the possibility of a coup d'état and the establishment of Brazil as the epicenter of the global extreme right. For Brazilian men and women, it is a matter of deciding whether or not to continue with neoliberalism, obscurantism and authoritarianism, which push large masses of the people into misery, encourage religious intolerance and political violence, and place the population under the constant threat of closure of the political regime.

 

The 2022 elections

In the weeks leading up to the first round of elections, held on October 2, there was an intense campaign in favor of a useful vote for Lula, aimed at undecided voters and voters of the 3rd way candidates, Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes. The possibility pointed out by the electoral polls of a victory in the first round excited the progressive militancy. A victory in the first round would not guarantee the prevention of the coup, but it would improve the conditions of struggle in the democratic and popular camp.

Firstly, because it would increase the political costs of the coup, since it would involve annulling the elections for the National Congress and for the state governments elected in the first round. Second, because it would eliminate the risks of Bolsonaro reducing the difference or overtaking Lula between the first and second rounds. Thirdly, because it would neutralize the trend of programmatic downgrading of Lula's candidacy in view of the need to expand the range of alliances to win in the second round. And lastly, because it would reduce the chances of an escalation of political intimidation and violence.

The result, however, was marked by the discrepancy between the electoral polls and the performance obtained by Bolsonarism. The main research institutes, which on the eve of the elections pointed to an advantage of 14% of the valid votes for Lula (51% to 37%), were wildly wrong on the scoreboard. Despite having agreed on the placement of the two candidates, the distance between them was much smaller than expected, only 5% of the valid votes (48% to 43%).

This discrepancy generated enormous frustration in progressive militancy. If, on the one hand, there was a lack of around 1,8 million votes for Lula to win the election in the first round, something around 1,1% of the total votes (or 1,6% of the valid votes), on the other hand the difference between the two candidates was greatly reduced. Of the total voters, 57.259.504 chose Lula (36,6%) and 51.072.345 chose Bolsonaro (32,6%), a difference of only 6.187.159 votes (4%). About 9,9 million voters chose the remaining candidates (5,9%), 5,4 million voters annulled their vote (4,4%), and 32.770.982 did not turn up to the polls (20,95%).

The surprising performance of Bolsonarism was also reflected in the elections for state governments and for the National Congress. In the 15 states where the elections for governors were resolved in the first round, in 10 of them candidates from the allied base of the Bolsonaro government were elected and in only 5 of them were elected opposition candidates. In the states where the candidates from the allied base won, in 3 of them they won candidates organically linked to Bolsonarism (Paraná, Rio de Janeiro and Roraima) and in 7 they won candidates from the center (Acre, Amapá, Distrito Federal, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais and Tocantins). In the states where candidates linked to the opposition won, in 4 of them they won candidacies from the center-left (Ceará, Maranhão, Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte) and in only 1 of them did a candidate from the bourgeois opposition/traditional right (Pará) win.

In the other 12 states where the election went to the second round, Bolsonarism and the allied base parties are still contesting in 11, while the opposition disputes in 9. Bolsonarism disputes the second round in 6 states (Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do South, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and São Paulo), as well as their allies in the center (Alagoas, Amazonas, Bahia, Pernambuco, Rondônia and Sergipe)[I]. On the other hand, the center-left also disputes in 6 states (Bahia, Espírito Santo, Paraíba, Santa Catarina, São Paulo and Sergipe) and the traditional right disputes in 4 (Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraíba, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul ).[ii]. From this perspective, out of the 27 states of the federation, Bolsonarism and its allies will be able to conquer between 10 and 22 states, while the opposition will be able to conquer between 5 and 14 states, at the end of the second round.

Considering the difference obtained by the candidates in the first round and the recent polls of voting intentions, Bolsonarism should win in 5 of the 6 states where it disputes the second round, expanding from 4 to 8 state governments (+4). Centrão parties should win in 2 of the 6 states where they are contesting the second round, falling from 10 to 9 state governments (-1). The center-left must win in 4 states in the second round, falling from 9 to 7 state governments (-2). And the traditional right should win only in the state of Pernambuco, shrinking from 4 to 2 state governments (-2). That is, if this prognosis is confirmed, Bolsonarism and its allies should end the second round with 17 state governments – or 16, considering that the favorite candidate in the state of Alagoas is from the centrão allied with Lulism – while the opposition should end with only 9. In addition, Bolsonarism should be the only force to expand state governments between the 2018 and 2022 elections. Bolsonarism and shrinkage of other political currents.

In the National Congress, Bolsonarism was the force that grew the most. In the Chamber of Deputies the changes were more subtle. Rather, it should be noted that due to the particularities of the Brazilian party system, such as high fragmentation and physiologism, it is difficult to measure the correlation of forces precisely. The ideological cohesion of the parties is not always high, so that a predominantly Bolsonarist party, such as the Liberal Party (PL), can house parliamentarians from the center, and predominantly center parties, such as União Brasil (UB) and Progressistas (PP ), can house Bolsonarist parliamentarians. In addition, alliance systems change according to the voting agenda, so that allies can become opponents and vice versa, depending on the topic debated (an exemplary case is that of the traditional right, which opposes the coup d'état and the government's scientific denialism, but accompanies the allied base in approving neoliberal reforms).

Considering the predominant current in each party as a classification criterion and admitting its merely approximate character from the outset, we observe that the parties most linked to Bolsonarism (PL, Republicanos, PSC, Patriota, Novo, PTB) increased 10 seats in this election, leaving 144 to 154 deputies. The centrão parties (UB, PP, PSD, MDB, Avante, Cidadania, Solidariedade, Pros) lost 8 seats, going from 217 to 209 deputies. The traditional right (Podemos, PSDB) lost 6 seats, dropping from 31 to 25 deputies. And the center-left (PT, PDT, PSB, PSOL, PV, PCdoB, Rede) expanded 4 seats, increasing from 121 to 125 deputies. As a result, the current allied base (bolsonarismo + centrão) increased 2 seats, from 361 to 363 deputies, while the opposition (traditional right + center-left) lost 2 seats, from 152 to 150 deputies. These changes, albeit subtle, indicate that the centrão and, mainly, the traditional right, have lost space for Bolsonarism. The change in the composition of forces to the right has a direct impact on the correlation of forces in the Chamber, since Bolsonarism has established itself as a polarizing force to the right and the growth of the center-left (+4) has not offset the growth of Bolsonarism (+10) . It should also be noted that the growth of the PL and PT and the shrinkage of the centrão and traditional right parties indicate a deepening polarization between Bolsonarism and Lulism.

Legend: yellow (Bolsonarism), white (centrão), blue (traditional right), red (center-left).

Legend: yellow (Bolsonarism), white (centrão), blue (traditional right), red (center-left).

In the Senate, the strengthening of Bolsonarism is even more evident, although it was minimized by the renewal of only 1/3 of the seats (27 out of 81).[iii] Of the 27 seats in dispute, the allied base won 20, 14 of which were obtained by Bolsonarism (Acre, Distrito Federal, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia, Roraima, Santa Catarina, São Paulo) and only 6 of them obtained by the center (Alagoas, Amapá, Paraíba, Bahia, Tocantins, Sergipe). The opposition obtained only 7 seats, 5 of them obtained by the center-left (Ceará, Maranhão, Pará, Pernambuco, Piauí) and 2 of them obtained by candidates from the centrão allied with Lulism (Alagoas and Amazonas).

Although it covered only 1/3 of the seats, this renewal had relevant impacts on the composition of the Senate, the main one being the establishment of the PL, the main party of Bolsonarism, as the largest party caucus (13 seats), which qualifies it to dispute the presidency of the house – the strategic importance of this will be resumed later on. This renewal affected the composition of the Senate as follows: Bolsonarism (PL, Republicans, PSC, PTB) increased from 11 to 17 seats (+6), the centrão (UB, PP, PSD, MDB, Citizenship, Pros) reduced from 43 to 41 seats (-2), the traditional right (Podemos, PSDB) fell from 14 to 10 seats (-4) and the center-left (PT, PDT, PSB, Rede) rose from 12 to 13 seats (+1 ). As a result, the allied base (bolsonarismo + centrão) increased from 54 to 58 seats (+4) and the opposition (traditional right + center-left) reduced from 26 to 23 seats (-3).

Legend: yellow (Bolsonarism), white (centrão), blue (traditional right), red (center-left).

Legend: yellow (Bolsonarism), white (centrão), blue (traditional right), red (center-left).

Again, as in the elections for the Chamber of Deputies, there was a change in the composition of forces to the right that directly impacted the correlation of forces in the house, with Bolsonarism conquering the largest party bench. Obtaining the presidency of the Senate is strategic in Bolsonarism's plans, which is both more possible and likely if Bolsonaro wins the presidential elections on October 30. If the control of the Chamber of Deputies is strategic to avoid the opening of an impeachment process against the President of the Republic, on the other hand, the control of the Senate is strategic to forward the opening of impeachment processes against the ministers of the STF.

If it wins the presidency of the Senate and the presidency of the Republic, Bolsonarism will be able to carry out the threat of deposing the ministers of the STF and replacing them with their counterparts, thus obtaining a reactionary majority in the Court. Control over the Executive, Congress and the STF will allow Bolsonarism to make constitutional changes and move forward freely in closing the regime from within the order, without the containment of democratic institutions – which, however fragile, vacillating and contradictory they may be, have even assumed the moment the main initiatives to stop the escalation of the coup d'état.

Returning to the theme of the unexpected growth of Bolsonarism, it is important to highlight that this did not occur only in the presidential elections, but also in the elections for state governments and for the Senate. Bolsonarism surprised the polls and won the first round for governor in Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo. In the elections in Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia, candidates linked to Bolsonarism performed better than expected, which allowed them to take the election to the second round, in the case of Espírito Santo, and win the election in the first round. , in the case of Rio de Janeiro. In the Senate elections, in practically all the states where there was a discrepancy between the polls and the results of the polls, we found a pattern: the one who surprises is always the candidate linked to Bolsonarism (Federal District, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Paraná, Rio Grande do Norte, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and São Paulo). In the case of São Paulo, the largest electoral college in the country with 22% of voters, the unexpected growth of Bolsonarism contributed decisively to the narrowing of the difference between Lula and Jair Bolsonaro.

These data indicate that Bolsonarism was underreported by vote intention surveys. The debate over the discrepancy between polls and ballot results will continue among political scientists, demographers, statisticians, and other specialists after the elections. In this article I will not address the problem. I only indicate that the underreporting of Bolsonarism by electoral polls fueled a certain political underestimation of it by candidates from the democratic field and the center-left. The climate of “already won” contaminated the progressive militancy, which counted on a victory for Lula in the first round, and contributed to the frustration taking over after the result.

The political underestimation of Bolsonarism also seems to have influenced some state campaigns, especially that of Fernando Haddad (PT) for the government of São Paulo, which prioritized attacking the traditional right-wing candidate instead of attacking the Bolsonarism candidate, overtake in the state race and strengthen Jair Bolsonaro's vote in the state.

Another demonstration of the strength of Bolsonarism was the ability to punish dissident candidates, who had been elected in the 2018 Bolsonarist wave, with non-reelection and loss of mandate. Important figures who broke with the Bolsonaro government during his term, for varied and different reasons (alliance with the centrão, cases of corruption, handling of the pandemic), lost social support and failed at the polls.

Case of former ministers Abraham Weintraub and Luiz Henrique Mandetta; federal deputies Alexandre Frota, Delegado Waldir and Joice Hasselmann; Senator Soraya Thronicke; the state representative of São Paulo, Janaína Paschoal; of the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Witzel, among others. On the other hand, figures who were part of the government or who remained close to Bolsonaro were elected, such as former ministers Marcos Pontes, Damares Alves, Tereza Cristina and Sérgio Moro,[iv] who were elected to the Senate; former ministers Eduardo Pazzuelo and Ricardo Salles, who were elected to the Chamber of Deputies; the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Cláudio Castro, who was elected after temporarily assuming the mandate of former Bolsonarist Wilson Witzel; from Minas Gerais councilor Nikolas Ferreira, who obtained the highest number of votes for the Chamber of Deputies in this year's elections, among others.

In summary, the results of the first round show that Bolsonarism came out bigger than it entered these elections, even if it was behind Lula in the presidential race. The unexpected growth in the presidential and state elections, the expansion of state governments and the benches in the National Congress, and the punishment of dissidents, were an unequivocal demonstration of strength and raised the spirits of Bolsonaristas for the second round. If, on the one hand, the surprising performance of Bolsonarism strengthened the discourse of discrediting the electoral polls, on the other hand, it made Jair Bolsonaro back down from questioning the electronic voting machines and accept the results that were favorable to him in the first round.

The Armed Forces, which, in violation of the Federal Constitution, seek to protect the electoral process through an alleged independent audit of the electronic voting machines, so far have not accused the existence of fraud and declared that they will only disclose the results of their expertise after the second round , keeping an open door for contesting the result in case of defeat on 30 October.

Finally, it should be mentioned that, unlike the above assessment, there is a different, more optimistic analysis, which emphasizes the PT's resilience after Lava Jato and the 2016 coup; in the slight recovery of the center-left in the National Congress; in the expansion of parliamentary representations of indigenous, black, women and trans; in the expressive voting of Psol leaders in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo; in the record vote obtained by Lula in the first round, higher than the vote that Bolsonaro obtained in the second round of 2018; in the probable rupture between centrão and Bolsonaro if Lula wins the elections; Among other things. Without disregarding these positive aspects, it is worth questioning whether they constitute the main aspect to be extracted from this process.

Considering that even in the face of economic, social, political and environmental disaster, Bolsonarism expanded its positions and established itself politically as the main right-wing force in Brazilian politics; that Bolsonaro has consolidated himself as a global fascist leader; and if it weren't for Lula's eligibility, Jair Bolsonaro would be a clear favorite for this year's reelection, I think that the positive aspects are secondary and do not prevail over the strengthening and consolidation of Bolsonarism. It is very little compared to the normalization of barbarism.

The performance of Bolsonarism indicates that the crisis of the regime will persist in the coming years, contrary to what could suggest a certain redeeming expectation of Lulism, which, returning like the phoenix, would pacify the country and resume the path of political stability, economic growth and peace. income distribution. The economic, social and political conditions are different: there is no longer a favorable international cycle for the export of commodities, underemployment and informality are advancing on the working class, the post-coup neoliberal reforms have reduced the elected authorities' room for maneuver over the economic policy, and the composition of the National Congress is even more conservative.

The establishment of a reactionary mass movement, coup-mongering and armed, calls into question the conciliatory and demobilizing strategy of Lulism. That is, the Brazilian crisis gave birth to a new political configuration/polarization, which tends to be lasting, and it is not guaranteed that an electoral victory becomes a political victory – even if a political victory passes, necessarily and urgently, through the electoral victory of Lula over Bolsonaro on October 30.

 

The second shift and the day after

Three and a half weeks elapsed between the first and second rounds. During this period, Lula consolidated around himself a broad democratic front, gathering the support of the other parties and candidates from the left and from the 3rd way, in particular the support of the candidate Simone Tebet. Candidate Ciro Gomes, who went so far as to elect Lula as his main enemy in his campaign, pronounced himself in favor of his party's position (PDT), in support of Lula in the second round, but did not engage in the campaign.

With that, the contingent of Lula's supporters among the big bourgeoisie increased, but not as much as it could have, even because the growth of Bolsonarism and the narrowing of the difference in the first round made some of them prefer to preserve themselves and remain neutral. On the side of Jair Bolsonaro, his bourgeois base demonstrated a greater capacity for mobilization, especially the mass of small and medium-sized capitalists and landowners, judging by the record of donations to Bolsonarist campaigns and the numerous records of blackmail and intimidation against the vote of the employees in the workplace.

Faced with the fierce polarization, in which 93% of voters are convinced about the choice of their candidates, the change of vote from one candidate to another becomes an increasingly rare phenomenon, so that the dispute in the second round tends to concentrate in the undecided voters of the 3rd way and in the abstentions. While the former are divided between the two candidacies, according to polls carried out after the first round; Abstentions harm Lula more than Jair Bolsonaro, as they affect mainly the poorest and least educated voters, who mostly vote for the PT candidate. Aware of this, Jair Bolsonaro tried to prevent, still in the first round, municipalities from granting free public transport on election day, but was unsuccessful. In recent weeks, the STF authorized free public transport on election day, so that all capitals in the country will have a free pass on October 30th. With that, Bolsonaro's chances of winning votes and reducing Lula's vote are even more reduced.

In addition to statistical and mathematical issues, the developments of his campaign in the second round compete against Jair Bolsonaro, who had to face embarrassing statements and facts, as well as possible crimes involving the figure of the president. In part, this resulted from the communication strategy of the PT campaign, which decided to risk fighting in the field of moral conservatism, where Bolsonarism is stronger. The PT campaign leaked videos of Bolsonaro at Freemasonry events, strange statements about the practice of cannibalism and even a possible case of pedophilia.

None of this was enough to take away votes from Jair Bolsonaro, even among conservative evangelicals, but it helped to curb his growth trend and put his campaign on the defensive, having to find explanations and clarify his base on the information released. In addition, Bolsonarism made mistakes during this period, such as leaking unpopular measures intended by its Minister of Economy, such as the end of correcting the minimum wage for inflation and the end of deductions for health and education expenses in income tax, which may have contributed to alienating undecided voters.

The Bolsonarist candidate for the government of São Paulo, Tarcísio Freitas, took up the defense of measures rejected by the majority of the population of São Paulo, such as the privatization of the water supply system and the end of the cameras in the uniforms of the military police, which reduced the his difference in relation to Fernando Haddad and, consequently, strengthen the intentions of voting for Lula in the largest electoral college in the country in the second round.

Given this context, candidacies fight to increase adversary rejection. The programmatic debate was sidelined by the spread of scandals and false news. If, on the one hand, Lula's candidacy has so far been successful in its incursion into the moral terrain, neutralizing the Bolsonarism offensive, on the other hand, it has presented few concrete proposals to increase its vote among workers. Jair Bolsonaro, in turn, has announced new social benefits almost daily, using the weight of the state machine in favor of his candidacy. So far, electoral polls have shown an average distance of approximately five percentage points between the two candidacies, which is similar to the result of the first round, with Lula's slight growth in this final stretch of the campaign. However, considering the discrepancy between the polls and the ballot boxes in the first round, and the trend of increasing abstentions in the second round, Lula's victory cannot be taken for granted.

Regardless of Sunday's outcome (30), the side that wins will be by a small difference in votes. In the recent history of presidential elections in Latin America, narrow-margin victories have led to the immobilization of the newly elected government and political instability, as occurred in Brazil in 2014, Ecuador in 2017, Bolivia in 2019, Peru in 2021 and in Colombia in 2022. This development is practically certain if Lula defeats Jair Bolsonaro, in view of the coup-like nature of Bolsonarism and its campaign to discredit electronic voting machines.

Throughout the pre-election period and even during the campaign, Jair Bolsonaro indicated that he would not accept any result other than his re-election. Now in the final stretch of the campaign, given the worsening performance in the electoral polls, Bolsonarism has again attacked the electoral process and democratic institutions. Last Sunday (23), an important ally of Jair Bolsonaro, Roberto Jefferson, committed a violent attack against the police, calling on Bolsonarists to take up arms to fight against the “tyranny” of the STF. Throughout this week, Bolsonarism raised false accusations of irregularities in electoral insertions on radios and TVs, in search of a pretext to postpone the elections.

That said, it is clear that the fight against Bolsonarism will not end on October 30th. If Jair Bolsonaro wins, the opposition will accept the result and act to prevent the coup d'état, making an uncompromising defense of democratic institutions. If Lula wins, there will be other battles the day after the second round: first, against contesting the election results and possible Bolsonarist uprisings; then, to ensure that Lula manages to take office and govern; then, to disarm the thousands of Bolsonaristas organized in shooting clubs; then, to ensure the punishment of crimes committed by Bolsonarism. In addition to other urgent and immediate battles that are imposed on the economic and social level, against hunger and high prices that affect more than half of the Brazilian population.

Meeting the expectations of change among the mass of workers who voted for Lula and regaining the support of those who adhered to Bolsonarism will be a task that is as urgent as it is necessary to defeat neo-fascism politically. Regardless of the result on Sunday (30), this will be a prolonged fight.

* André Flores is a doctoral candidate in political science at Unicamp and a member of the Popular Consultation.

Notes


[I] In the state of Rondônia, the second round will involve two candidacies from the allied base, Coronel Marcos Rocha (União Brasil) and Marcos Rogério (PL), the latter being from the same party as Bolsonaro.

[ii] In the state of Paraíba, the second round will involve two opposition candidates (center-left and traditional right), João Azevedo (PSB) and Pedro Cunha Lima (PSDB).

[iii] In Brazil, the term of office of a senator is 8 years and elections take place, alternately, every 4 years, sometimes for 4/1 sometimes for 3/2 of the seats. Thus, in the 3 elections, 2022/1 of the seats (3) were renewed, referring to the elected representatives in 27, with 2014 seat per federative unit (1). The mandates elected in 27 will only be renewed in the 2022 elections.

[iv] It should be noted that Sérgio Moro and Bolsonaro broke up during the pandemic, when the then Minister of Justice left the government accusing the president's interference in investigations of corruption cases involving one of his sons, Flávio Bolsonaro, who is a senator for the state of Rio de Janeiro . In recent weeks, during the electoral period, there has been a rapprochement between the two and an alliance has been publicly sealed against a common enemy: Lula and the PT. With that, Moro, who was behind in the electoral polls for the Senate in the state of Paraná, was driven at the last minute by Bolsonarism and managed to win the vacancy.

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