(Expansion) – The extreme political polarization is the owner of our times. Divided and antagonistic societies pass before our eyes predicting unrestricted conflicts, civil wars and chronic instability. In the name of ideological rivalry, anything goes: assaulting the civility pact, the rule of law and the degradation of institutions, while undermining democratic status and kidnapping the umbrella of citizen rights and freedoms.
How to ensure political governance when societies that carry opposing principles and values prevail and that in advance discount the value of agreements and consensus? The election on October 30 in Brazil under the Bolsonaro-Lula ticket exhibits this equation: a fierce struggle between two different models and opposing poles that disagree between democracy and autocracy. Precisely the formula in vogue that seals the character of contemporary international politics and that threatens to divide the world geopolitically in a new Cold War.
Brazil seemed to have left behind the weight of the Army, the coups and the military dictatorship. After three decades of political stability and a period of growing economic prosperity, the country is facing perhaps the greatest crisis in its recent history. Since 2013, a succession of events has contributed to pigmenting politics: senior officials involved in networks of corruption, embezzlement, accusations and dismissals, the spread of false news, political hunts and trials that have generated a state of intolerance and polarization, while Present growing violations and threats to political, social and individual rights.
In the prelude to the ballot, the two battlefields seem intertwined by hatred, violence and harassment, a mixture of ingredients that, if the ruling party loses, calls into question the peaceful transition of power in Latin America’s leading economy; a G20 country, a member of the BRICS, and a member of the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member. From the start of the campaign, on August 16, until Friday, September 30, two days before the first round, Agência Pública, a Brazilian investigative journalism body, mapped and verified 75 incidents of violence against investigators, voters, candidates, candidates and journalists.
While the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, is obstinate in winning re-election through the enthusiasm shown towards arms, agribusiness, environmental exploitation in favor of mining, moral supremacy, the nostalgic vindication of the dictatorship, as well as his alliance tacitly with Trump and Bannon, Lula da Silva advocates recovering democratic stature, institutional legitimacy, conservation of the Amazon, curbing inequality, as well as developing a foreign policy attached to multilateralism that claims the place of the South American country in the world.
Bolsonaro has questioned electoral integrity. He insinuated that “if necessary we will go to war” and that election day “can only have three possible results: my arrest, death or victory.” The question is pertinent, if he loses by a narrow margin, will it be possible to see an electoral insurrection in Brazil, in the style of the assault on the Capitol in the United States? We must not forget that Bolsonaro’s conservative and radical right-wing party turned out to be the most voted in Congress, and that, together with other allied parties, they will have a majority. In addition, they won emblematic governorships, including the support of the re-elected governor of Minas Gerais.
Although Da Silva is still up in the polls, Bolsonaro’s solid performance in the first round suggests that the margin of error in support for the president in the polls may be greater, or his final forecast imprecise, considering the hidden vote and/or secret anti-Lula. Under a growing personalization of politics, society is increasingly divided, and with all intentions, Bolsonaro promotes it in this second stage of the campaign.
Anne Applebaum rightly asks, how do you get the right political middle ground when conventional, centrist proposals no longer generate enthusiasm? This unknown, combined with the global trend of democracy being eroded, or threatened by nationalist and/or authoritarian forces in recent years, suggests that after the elections, democratic resilience in Brazil will be tested outside the ballot box with major extremist narratives, episodes of violence and questioning of principles.
Editor’s note: Rina Mussali is an international analyst and coordinator of the COMEXI Study Unit regarding the “Russia-Ukraine War”. Follow her on , and on . The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.