The Right Wave in World Politics - Brazil Has Its Own "Trump"


Jair Messias Bolsonaro is the full name of the winner of the first round of the presidential elections in Brazil, which many fans simply call the “Messiah”. Not long ago this member of the Brazilian parliament was considered almost a marginal figure, who shocked the public with his statements about homosexuals, gender inequality and racial minorities. But last Sunday, more than 49 million Brazilians voted for him - almost 47% of voters who came to the polls.

If Bolsonaro wins in the second round, he will become the first Brazilian president to withdraw from the military in many years. The captain of the retired Brazilian Airborne Forces, Bolsonaro began his political career in 1989 at the age of 34, becoming the Christian Democratic Party Municipal Deputy in Rio de Janeiro. By the time he was already well known to the general public thanks to a sensational article for the magazine Veja, in which Bolsonaro criticized the low salaries of military officers. For this, he had to spend half a month under arrest. In 1990, Bolsonaro was elected to the lower house of the Brazilian Congress and then, thanks to his personal charisma (his external data is particularly noteworthy - his height is 186 centimeters), he was re-elected six more times in a row.

Despite repeated changes of party affiliation, Bolsonaro invariably maintained the reputation of a traditionalist and a conservative. At various times, he opposed same-sex marriage, abortion, liberalization of drug legislation, land reform, etc. In total, in more than a quarter of a century of parliamentary career, he put forward more than 170 bills and one constitutional amendment.

Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign was loud and aggressive. Its main idea was to “establish order” in the truest sense of the word (according to the UN, the level of premeditated murders in Brazil is 21 cases per 100 thousand people - almost four times higher than in neighboring Argentina). If elected president, Bolshonaro promised to make serious eases in the legislation on weapons, as well as give the police a number of additional rights in the fight against street crime and drug trafficking.

The populist character of the Bolsonaro campaign was also provided by his proxies, among whom were many well-known athletes.

A curious detail of Bolsonaro’s political position is his sympathy for Israel. During the presidential campaign, he promised to transfer the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in case of victory, which gave another reason for comparing Bolsonaro with Donald Trump, who took similar actions shortly after winning the election. Bolsonaro was stabbed in the stomach on 6 September 2018 while campaigning and interacting with supporters in the city of Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais.

This incident dramatically increased the popularity of Bolsonaro: in mid-September, he was a leader in polls with a large margin. At the same time, it became known that former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is in custody, was denied to registrate as the candidate, so three weeks before the election, the main intrigue came down to whether Bolsonaro won the first round.

Fiasco on the left flank

The success of Bolsonaro in the first round of the presidential election was first and foremost evidence of a deep rift among the Brazilian left-wing liberals who could not cope with the economic crisis in the country. Although in the early nineties, it was the crisis in the economy that brought them to power. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, elected president in 1994, was able to quickly cope with hyperinflation, created conditions for attracting foreign investment into the country, export growth and outlined a number of serious social programs that were implemented under his successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who represented the Workers Party. The eight years of Lula’s reign (2003–2010) were marked by a significant decrease in poverty and high rates of economic growth, but at the same time corruption became an increasingly acute problem for Brazil.

Having resigned due to illness, Lula blessed Dilma Rousseff for the presidency. In the early seventies, when military dictatorship prevailed in Brazil, leftist Rusef suffered from the regime, but then became a respectable politician and under Lula headed the board of directors of the national oil company Petrobras. This page of her biography was not ignored in the process of anti-corruption investigations, which began soon after Rusef’s election for a second term in October 2014. The opposition accused her of tax violations and financial fraud during the election campaign, and in 2016, Dilma Rousseff was early deprived of presidential powers. Another person involved in the investigation was Lula da Silva, who in July last year was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for taking a bribe.

After the impeachment of Rusef, presidential powers passed to Vice President Michel Temer, but he also quickly found himself at the center of corruption scandals. He refused to nominate his candidacy for the elections held on Sunday, supporting the former Minister of Finance of Brazil, Enrique Meirelles. Lula da Silva had plans to return to politics, but his candidacy was not registered, and the representative of the Workers Party, the former mayor of São Paulo Fernando Addad, who received only 29% of votes in the first round, became the main candidate from the left. However, he represents a party associated with loud corruption scandals, which reflects badly on his ratings.

In addition, the other participants of the first round, to which more than ten candidates were admitted, took away the votes from Addad. Therefore, despite the significant gap between Bolsonaro and Addad, a serious intrigue remains before the second round.

Neoliberal crisis

Political cataclysms in Brazil over the past three years have been accompanied by an economic crisis that openly manifested itself in 2015, when the country's GDP fell by 3.8%. At the end of 2016, the country's GDP fell by another 3.6%, and the decline accumulated over a couple of years turned out to be the most profound since 1947. Brazil received a budget deficit of 9% of GDP. The government decided to close this hole in a typically neoliberal way, announcing plans for large-scale privatization.

Last year, the Brazilian economy stopped falling - GDP growth was 1%. This year, an acceleration of up to about 2.8% was predicted, but the Brazilian economy could not avoid a devaluation wave.

One of the components of the crisis in Brazil is friendly relations with the United States, although the fundamental condition for the development of Brazil is precisely the conflict with the United States. Brazil can only be pulled out of the crisis by a leader who will devote all his strength to domestic politics and the establishment of strong economic relations with neighbors.