As the Brazilian elections grow closer, Bolsonaro seems to be following in Trump’s footprints yet again by attacking the democratic traditions of Brazil, accusing electronic voting of wide – spread fraud etc.
By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seems to be going out of his way to prolong his position as the President post the national elections scheduled in 2022. Bolsonaro was given the title of the ‘Tropical Trump’ since it was public knowledge that Bolsonaro saw Trump as an ideal politician and his political rhetoric, and his policies seemed to emulate that of Trumps. Now as the Brazilian elections grow closer, he seems to be following in Trump’s footprints yet again by attacking the democratic traditions of Brazil, accusing electronic voting of wide – spread fraud, and going as far as to announce that he had three possible future outcomes, “being arrested, killed, or victory”. This outrageous statement is reminiscent of the constantly repeated Trump rhetoric of voter fraud and stolen elections. As the public opinion shifts once again in Lula’s favour, Bolsonaro’s antics are rapidly turning more authoritarian in nature.
On Thursday, 02 September 2021 Bolsonaro used his powers as the President to veto four paragraphs of the text that has been passed by congress which repeals the National Security Law. The National Security Law is a remnant of the military dictatorship era of the country, and gives the government to incarcerate and persecute any person who acts, speaks, protests, or expresses in any other manner an opinion against the government, government agencies, and/ or officials including politicians. The law has been used by Bolsonaro and his regime to quell and suppress all opinions against him. The senate has been attempting to repeal this law for the last 3 decades and a petition to revoke the law was first made in the Brazilian parliament in 1991. Bolsonaro has used his veto to keep some of the most exploitative fragments of the National Security Law alive. These are the sections that allow imprisonment in case of protests, expressing dissent, critiquing the government, spreading mass information (the use of social media against the government). Bolsonaro has also vetoed the parts of the bill that increased the punishment for military personnel by fifty per cent in case they committed crimes against the rule of law. The bill also suggested that the personnel in question could lose their rank if convicted. The Bolsonaro regime has justified the veto on the basis of safe – guarding national interests. According to Bolsonaro, no law that jeopardizes the ‘Brazilian Spirit’ and national interests should not be supported. The actions of the present Brazilian regime are akin to any authoritarian regimes all over the world irrespective of space and time.
This veto by Bolsonaro will be debated by the senate for the next thirty days and a decision would be taken post deliberation. However, these actions by Bolsonaro point towards a greater problem. Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions in the past as well as his present decision to try and veto parts of a law that would deplete the powers of the government to suppress dissent, are indicative of not just Bolsonaro’s authoritarian tendencies but also his complete disregard for democracy or democratic traditions. This can be attributed to not just his own far right ideologies, but also the lack of complete bi-partisan dismissal of the attack on the Capitol Hill that the US suffered earlier this year, post the Biden victory.
Bolsonaro has been critiqued for his mis-handling of the crisis caused by the Corona Virus pandemic, as well as the corruption under his watch especially since he came to power promising a crack down on corruption. As people are getting tired of facing a crumbling economy, high unemployment, degrading environment, and rampant crime; their faith in Bolsonaro has been waning. The country is also currently staring at an imminent energy crisis as the reservoirs across the country have suffered due to a drastic decrease in rainfall over the past years. Bolsonaro’s disregard of the environment and need for the conservation of the Amazon are also seen as factors contributing to the rapid change in weather patterns and increasing degradation of the Amazon as well as its people.
The Bolsonaro regime is becoming more and more overbearing as elections grow closer. He is also attempting to mend ties with political parties that he previously disparaged. Ciro Nogueira from the centre- right progressive party has been named as his Chief of Staff, contrary to Bolsonaro’s ideology of decreasing social spending, Ciro has announced that he would re-start the social support programme, which has unexpectedly helped Bolsonaro gain some points on the polls.
The Brazilian people are also exhausted from having to choose between the far right and the left. While Bolsonaro and Lula are both options that represent the far ends of the political spectrum, names like Ciro Gomes, of the Democratic Party, Joan Doria, the governor of Sao Paulo are now becoming popular. They represent a middle path for the people who want a choice that is neither Bolsonaro nor Lula. It remains to be seen whether they play a significant role in the 2022 Brazilian elections.
(The author is an Asst Professor at the Dept. of Public Policy at Amity University, NOIDA and a PhD in Latin American Studies from the Centre of Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)