- Fernando Duarte
- BBC International
A record number of voters will go to Brazil’s general election on Oct. 2, in what some observers see as a “critical test” of the country’s political system.
More than 150 million people will vote for governors and local lawmakers, as well as congressmen and senators, but the focus will undoubtedly be on the presidential race between incumbent Jabolsonaro and former President Lula.
Against a backdrop of polarized opinion, the outcome of the presidential race – if none of the 11 candidates get more than 50% of the vote, the two with the most votes go to the second round of the runoff, after which the winner will emerge – will be in Latin Reverberations beyond the borders of the largest and most populous nation in the Americas.
The world is already watching the Brazilian election. Perhaps the most vocal is the United States – which called on Bolsonaro’s government to “respect the democratic process” after the current Brazilian president publicly questioned the country’s electronic voting system.
Most recently (September 22), the United Nations issued a statement urging Brazilian authorities, candidates and political parties to “ensure that the upcoming general elections are peaceful and prevent election-related violence”.
According to Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), a record number of international organizations are expected to travel to Brazil to conduct polls to observe the election.
But the buzz wasn’t the only reason people around the world watched the Oct. 2 vote.
The future of the world‘s largest rainforest could be at stake in this election, judging by the environmental records of the two leading candidates.
During Lula’s two terms as president of Brazil (2003-2010), he played a role in protecting the Amazon in efforts to mitigate climate change by curbing illegal logging, mining and cattle raising in the region, overseeing the reduction in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon huge effect.
While destruction rates in the Amazon rainforest had risen before Bolsonaro’s 2018 election victory, the rate of destruction has accelerated considerably since he was sworn in in January 2019: Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Institute earlier this year A report released at the time said deforestation had increased by nearly 57 percent under the supervision of Bolsonaro’s government.
The far-right president has publicly supported commercial exploration in the Amazon and is particularly opposed to the protection of indigenous lands. He is the first Brazilian leader since 1988 not to sign off on the demarcation of indigenous lands.
Foreign governments and environmental groups have expressed concern about the situation. Greenpeace spokesman Teys Banwart told the BBC the election “needs to send a message that abandoning our environmental heritage will not be tolerated”.
Scientists have warned that the Amazon is approaching a so-called tipping point, where forests lose their ability to regenerate themselves after events such as droughts, fires and deforestation, Banwart said.
“For nearly four years, the words, actions and measures of Bolsonaro’s government have demonstrated his disdain for environmental agencies, indigenous peoples, environmental activists and democracy,” he said.
Bolsonaro has taken a more moderate stance internationally: At the United Nations General Assembly in September, the president claimed his environmental record was not being fairly reported by the media.
“Brazil is part of the solution and a reference point for the world in terms of the environment and sustainability,” he said.
Brazil is important both economically and politically
Brazil is a major producer of commodities such as soybeans, beef and iron ore, and a major trading partner of the United States and China. Therefore, a turbulent election, or unrest after an election, is a possibility that also attracts international attention.
Leonardo Fontes, a Brazilian sociologist and international relations expert, believes the country’s “young democracy” will be put to the test as Bolsonaro’s repeated questions about the electronic voting system have led to speculation that the Supporters of someone nicknamed “Tropical Trump” could unleash a post-election riot of Brazil’s own version, as Trump supporters did at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Democracies in several Western countries are under threat, and we are already seeing signs of this happening in Brazil,” Fontes explained.
He said it would need to be seen what Bolsonaro would do in the event of an electoral defeat, but it was fair to say that democracy was being tested in Brazil.
Bolsonaro’s inflammatory remarks also accompanied legislation to ease gun ownership rules in Brazil. The number of guns in private hands has doubled since 2018 to nearly 2 million, according to data from the Brazilian army and police analyzed by Sou da Paz, a Brazilian security think tank.
Carolina Ricardo, executive director of the I Love Peace Institute, said: “Today we have a real armed civilian army in Brazil, which is a very worrying situation.”
There are also concerns about the possible role of the real Brazilian military after the election. Brazil was ruled by the military from 1964 to 1985, with President Bolsonaro a former army captain and its Vice-President Hamilton Murao a general. But experts told the BBC not long ago that they saw no interest within the military to stage a coup.
Another battleground is the disinformation front. During the campaign, there were particular concerns about the use of social media to spread rumours, especially WhatsApp, the instant messaging social media software most commonly used by Brazilians.
In an interview with Brazilian newspaper La Times de São Paulo, Dario Durigan, director of public policy for WhatsApp Brazil, said the October 2 vote was the most important in the world for the Metaverse (Facebook) company. vote.
“It’s a polarized country with a tough business environment,” Durigan said.
Battle of the left and right routes?
Recent opinion polls in Brazil put Lula ahead of Bolsonaro by a wide margin. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the former president will get enough votes to avoid a decisive second round of voting, polls also suggest the left-wing politician will beat the incumbent in the second round.
For political scientists who have watched the rise of far-right leaders in countries over the past few years – most recently Meloni’s victory in Italy’s election – a win by Lula would be a sizable countercurrent.
According to Dr Vinicius de Cabaljo, a lecturer at the Institute for Brazil and Latin America at King’s College London. “Brazil is an economically and politically important country, so this would really represent a setback for the far right.”
“Brazil’s election comes at a time of major victories for both political forces on the left and right in the world,” added Dr. de Cabaljo, referring to Colombia’s first election of a left-wing president last June.