Contributed by Joe Montero
The election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has been greeted by much of the world’s media as a defeat of the Workers Party, and expression of democracy and therefore the will of the people. Is this an accurate description. Well – not really.
What happened, only makes sense in the context of the backdrop. This is a country striving to overcome the legacy of a past, brutal military dictatorship. The fall of the generals and their backers meant that they were weakened. But they were not defeated. They remained a formidable force in society.
When the Workers Party came into office under the leadership of the popular Lula, It did not have the numbers to become the government outright and was forced to enter into a coalition. Almost from the beginning, the coalition partners were unreliable and eventually ended with linking with the .powerful big ranchers, who had been the Main support base for the generals.
Brazil has a history of corruption among its politicians. It helped to win support for the Workers Party. When the it was tagged by the opponents as being corrupt itself, it had an impact. The Workers Party government was accused of misappropriating state funds. The information so far, suggests that a few rules were broken, to ensure enough money to maintain the social welfare net.
Meanwhile, a rapidly growing list of opposition politicians were falling under charges of having received bribes for favours. The result is that a political crisis already in existence got much deeper, as Brazilians turned away from established political parties, for anyone who would promise to bring in something different.
Dilma Rousseff and Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) were put on trial as the electioneering began. They and other popular figures were barred from standing. Washington weighted in supporting the plotters and much of the media joined in, to become the campaign headquarters for the opposition alliance.
The country fell into economic crisis, which brought hardship to most of the population. In part, this was economic sabotage. It was also the result of a failure to successfully implement alternative economic policies. It damaged belief in the capacity of the Workers Party.
Brazilians turned against traditional politics and politicians and began to land support to whoever promised to be different.
Bolsonaro has a history of political switches. But his core beliefs have remained constant. This is a former captain in the military, a vocal admirer of the old dictatorship, and closely tied with the big ranchers. It is no secret that he favours the tearing down of the Amazon for more cattle and pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, wants to roll back land rights given to indigenous tribes, and intends to trample on work and social rights across the board, to create the best climate for investors to profit. Last year her declared that ““A policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman,” And he has lined himself with the political brand known in Brazil as “bullets, bibles and cattle.”
Jair Bolsonaro came into the election as the leader of the small Social Liberal Party (PSL), which got 11.7 percent of the votes, just ahead of the Workers Party with 10.3 percent. Bolsonaro had the support of the far right Brazilian Labour Renewal Party led by General Hamilton Mourão. He may be able to count on the support of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (5 Percent) , which had been led by the former opposition leader, Michel Temer, who, because of his own corruption scandal and a four percent approval rating, was forced to pull out of contest.
On the other side, the Workers Party’s candidate, Fernando Haddad, was supported by the Christian Democrat Republican Party of Social Order (2.1 percent) and the Communist Party of Brazil (1.4 percent). A big problem is the division and unwillingness of what are considered left, social democratic, green and more liberal parties to work together. They are a majority in the alienation of the population.
The breakdown of traditional party support has created a multitude of warring tribes and there are now 30 parties with members of parliament. The two biggest have 22 percent of the vote between them. This says a lot about the state of political affairs in Brazil, one of which, is that the outcome of the election does not really accord with the will of the majority.
Bolsonaro will have to engage in a great deal of horse trading to form a government, aimed at creating a political alliance around the core cattle and military interests. It may prove to be an uphill battle.
At the best, this will be achieved in the face of major and widespread opposition. This is already been seen in the streets, where big numbers are promising to pick up the fight. A large part of Brazil is not going to willingly accept a Bolsonaro regime.
Repression has already been promised and there could be a return to military dictatorship. This is a real danger. Those who stand on the other side of this political divide must find a way to come together in a movement for democracy.