Growing Fears Amid Brazil’s Upcoming Election

Demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest against the far-right frontrunner candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, in the lead-up to Brazil’s presidential election. Chants of “El Nao” meaning “Not him!” erupted during the protests where tens of thousands of people, many of them women, took part in marches in the main cities of Brazil.

There have been growing fears in relation to Bolsonaro’s staunch support of reverting Brazil back to a military dictatorship, and his negative views on women, the LGBT community, and minority groups. Despite his views and policies on these issues, polls have shown that he is the favourite to win the election against other candidates such as his main opponent, Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party. This election exposes the current instability of Brazil as a state hit by economic turmoil, corruption, and high crime rates, and its political future is as yet uncertain.

One protestor told Al Jazeera that “the things [Bolsonaro] says are so grotesque and absurd, I don’t believe he deserves to have a voice or deserves to have a role so important as the president of Brazil,” highlighting Bolsonaro’s controversial political agenda and rhetoric. Another protester commented that “I was really sad when I voted [during the first-round elections], I cried because of what is going to happen in this country.” Voters have seen an onslaught of violence since the beginning of the political campaign, where divisions amongst Bolsonaro and Haddad supporters have turned the upcoming election into a heated battle between the left-wing and right-wing factions of the population. A Brazilian reporter attacked by Bolsonaro supporters stated that “there is a flowering of hate that I have never seen before,” referencing the growing tensions and violence dividing voters.

Bolsonaro’s political campaign and rhetoric must be taken seriously and condemned by the international community. Resorting to political discourse that seeks to incite hatred and violence is counter-intuitive in the development of democracy and the stabilization of a society. International intervention may be crucial if Bolsonaro wins the election and takes action to reflect his political rhetoric. Such international intervention may involve the employment of sanctions or an international investigation into human rights abuses; Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is indicative of the weakening of individual autonomy and freedom of press, while strengthening political power and control, and normalizing violence and discrimination. It is crucial for the international community to intervene as quickly as possible in order to prevent more human rights violations, should Bolsonaro win the election.

The rise of conservative and far-right sentiments within Brazil is telling of the recent surge in nationalist ideals around the world. As a nation that was once controlled by an authoritarian military dictatorship, the radical move to this model is surprising. Not only did the military dictatorship end only 33 years ago, but its desired return has decimated hopes in stabilizing the nation’s democratic practices. More so, the election comes at a time when Brazil has seen a surge in crime, violence and economic instability as a result of corruption. Supporters of Bolsonaro and a new renewed dictatorship are eager to restore a sense of stability in the country through violence. As a country that has a reputation for inciting police brutality towards minorities, especially young black men, Bolsonaro’s “law and order” rhetoric has become prominent in his election campaign, whereby he has voiced his support for capital punishment and more leeway for police enforcement.

Reverting to a military dictatorship will have detrimental impacts on Brazilian citizens, and Bolsonaro’s desire to return to one is as worrying as it is likely to occur. Countering violence with more violence must be stopped ahead of the second-round of the upcoming election. As a country known for its high crime rate, violence will not stop unless the root of the problem – the social and economic divisions across Brazilian society – is addressed.

Emily Kan