Effects of Brazil’s Jan. 6 moment — like America’s — will linger

When it became clear that Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, also known as “tropical Trump,” would fail to get reelected, the Brazilian’s fears on January 6 began to grow louder. How did the president, who had spread false allegations of electoral fraud and who said he would only accept the results of the election if he won, react to losing the election to a well-known challenger?

Now we know the answer.

Like Trump, Bolsonaro did not admit defeat. Like Trump, Bolsonaro provides legions of supporters — who also don’t accept the election results — with a daily dose of fake news via social media.

As it turns out, Brazil does not have its own version of Jan 6. Instead of an uncontrolled mob storming Congress while the president was passively watched, there was an uncontrolled mob blocking roads and highways across the country while the president was passively watched.

Brazil’s largest airport had to cancel several flights because people could not get through roadblocks led by truck drivers. But while Trump took several hours to decide to call on the protesters to “go home,” Bolsonaro did not bother to say anything for 48 hours after the election. When he finally appeared after two days of silence, he gave a short two-minute speech in which he did not explicitly acknowledge the election and did not mention the name of his opponent, Lula da Silva.

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Why did Bolsonaro take so long to make a statement? One of the possible reasons is that he is waiting to see how the post-election protests will take place and what support he may have in the election results. But the protest did not gain wider traction, and no relevant media, religious, military, or political figure spoke in support of the protest.

The ever-pragmatic Brazilian political class quickly began to think about strategies to survive in the post-Bolsonaro environment. The powerful president of the House of Representatives, who strongly supports Bolsonaro, said that “the will of the majority, as expressed in the polls, will never be contested” and began negotiations with the newly elected presidential team to secure it. position in the next Lula administration. Therefore, in the 48 hours after the election, Bolsonaro became more isolated. When he finally decided to break his silence, he concluded that the best option was to strengthen his position as a political leader, thanking his supporters and declaring that now “the right is really emerging in our country.”

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One lesson Americans can take from Brazil’s election is that when faced with an authoritarian presidential candidate seeking re-election, vote count speed matters. Having a nationalized electronic voting system – used for more than a quarter of a century – Brazilians can know the results of the election a few hours after the polls close. Before Bolsonaro could take a word, world leaders, with Biden ahead, had congratulated him on his challenge; Politicians who support Bolsonaro have accepted defeat, and even his vice president, an army general, has begun to discuss the transition. The speed at which it all happened left little room for maneuver. In the United States, on the other hand, it took several days for voters to know the results, giving Trump and his supporters enough time to make false accusations of election fraud and to contest the results when they were finally known.

As in the case of the United States, Brazil’s relatively young democracy will also suffer the consequences of the president’s behavior that does not follow the basic rules of political conduct. Even if things seem to be normal, and the newly elected president takes responsibility for following construction procedures, social signs will remain.

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Bolsonaro, like Trump, will no longer hold office – but Bolsonarismlike Trumpism, will remain a strong political force for years to come.

The deterioration of civil political culture which is the basis of their appeal is a fact no matter who leads the executive. And if Trump recaptures the White House in 2024 – which is far from impossible – his Brazilian student, who is a decade younger, will certainly be watching.

Carlos Gustavo Poggio Teixeira is a professor of Political Science at Berea College in Kentucky. He received his Ph.D. in International Studies from Old Dominion University in Virginia as a Fulbright Scholar. He is the author of “Brazil, the United States, and the South American Subsystem: Regional Politics and Absent Empires,” selected by Foreign Affairs Magazine as one of the best International Relations books of 2012.


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