The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, showed in Sunday’s elections that his political project is far from losing strength in the largest economy in Latin America, quite the opposite.
Bolsonarism, the extreme right-wing political movement born a few years ago with its leader, the Brazilian president, is well established in the country. Not only because of Bolsonaro’s unexpectedly good result in the presidential election, but also because of the performance of his allies in the votes for governors and legislators.
These are the facts that show that the conservative movement in Brazil has not lost strength.
A congress more to the right
A strong election night for his allies has given the party that ran the most seats in both houses of Congress, highlighting the staying power of his conservative movement even if the former army captain fails to win re-election.
The right-wing Liberal Party (PL) won 99 seats in the 513-member lower house, up from its previous 77, and right-wing parties allied with Bolsonaro now control half of the chamber.
The biggest surprise in Sunday’s vote was in the Senate, where Bolsonaro’s party won 13 of the 27 seats up for grabs, with another two possible in the second runoff round, a party spokesman said.
“Against all odds and against everyone, this year we won 2 million more votes than in 2018,” Bolsonaro posted on social media in the early hours of Monday. “We were also elected to the largest caucuses in the lower house and the senate, which was our top priority.”
Bolsonaro helped elect allies in the Senate who had lagged behind in the polls, such as former ministers Damares Alves and Paulo Pontes. Alves, an evangelical ally, defeated the Senate candidate from the president’s own party.
Other former ministers were also elected, such as Tereza Cristina (Agriculture), or former astronaut Marcos Pontes (Science and Technology). Outgoing Vice President Hamilton Mourao also won a seat in the upper house.
Likewise, highly controversial former members of the Bolsonaro government were elected, such as Eduardo Pazuello, who headed the Ministry of Health during the worst days of the pandemic, from May 2020 to March 2021.
This general was especially singled out by a Senate investigation commission for his reaction, considered late, to the oxygen shortage that caused the death by suffocation of dozens of infected people in January 2021 in Manaus.
Very discreet during the campaign, Pazuello benefited from the strong support of the president to obtain the second best score in the legislative elections in Rio de Janeiro.
The strong presence of the right in the legislative and gubernatorial elections, especially in the richer southeast of Brazil, made Bolsonaro the big winner of the elections.
He also prevented his left-wing presidential rival, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, from winning outright and consolidated a political base that could help him govern if he wins the Oct. 30 runoff.
Although most political analysts continue to see former President Lula as the winner, his victory is no longer so easy.
A better result than in the 2018 elections
Bolsonaro obtained 1.7 million votes more than in the first round of 2018, a mark that the president said he had achieved “against everything and everyone” this Monday on Twitter.
“This election shows how deeply rooted the conservative movement is in Brazil. Even if Bolsonaro ends up leaving the presidency (losing in the second round against Lula), Bolsonaroism will remain,” the sociologist predicted in a column in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. Angela Alonso, from the University of São Paulo.
The 2018 elections had already been marked by an ultra-conservative wave, mainly attributed to the rejection of Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT), tainted by corruption scandals.
But also to more circumstantial factors, such as the massive circulation of false information or the stabbing that Bolsonaro received during the campaign, which triggered his popularity.
But Sunday’s results show that Bolsonarism was not “just a ray in the blue sky, that is, someone who won due to circumstances of all kinds,” Jairo Nicolau, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, told the Nexojornal portal.
Brazil: a conservative country
Bolsonaro’s allies have also advanced in state politics, including gubernatorial races.
His former infrastructure minister Tarcisio Freitas, who participated in motorcycle rallies with Bolsonaro, was winning the most votes for governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest state, and will face Lula ally Fernando Haddad in a runoff. on October 30.
Bolsonaro boasted of having directly contributed to the election of eight governors, hoping to elect another eight in the second round.
“This is the greatest victory of the patriots in the history of Brazil: 60% of the Brazilian territory will be governed by those who defend our values and fight for a freer nation,” he posted on Twitter.
Lula put an optimistic spin on the outcome, saying he looked forward to another month of campaigning and the opportunity to debate Bolsonaro face-to-face.
Nicolau told AFP that “a small part of Brazilians is extremist, but Bolsonarism is above all a movement of expression of the country’s conservatism”, replacing traditional center-right parties such as the PSDB, of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995 -2001).
“The PSDB was a party of elites, with very little penetration into the social fabric. That is where Bolsonaro makes the difference: he is a true popular leader, as the Brazilian right has not had for a long time,” adds Mayra Goulart, professor of Political Science. from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Bolsonarism is particularly rooted in the evangelical electorate, sensitive to its ultra-conservative discourse and its campaign slogan “God, country and family”.
With information from AFP and Reuters