When it became clear that the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, also known as the “Trump of the tropics,” would fail to be re-elected, the fear of the Brazilian Jan. 6 began to grow more and more. A president who has been spreading false allegations of electoral fraud and who said he would only accept the results of the election if he won, how would he react if he lost the election to a popular opponent?
Now we know the answer.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro did not admit defeat. Like Trump, Bolsonaro fed a group of supporters – who also did not accept the election results – with daily fake news through social media.
In fact, Brazil had its own version on Jan 6. Instead of an unruly mob attacking Congress while the president watched idly by, there was and an unruly mob blocking roads and highways across the country while the president watched idly by.
Brazil’s largest airport had to suspend many flights because people could not get through the roadblocks led by truck drivers. But while it took Trump several hours to decide to call on the protesters to “go home,” Bolsonaro didn’t bother to say anything in the nearly 48 hours after the election. When he finally appeared after two days of silence, he gave a brief two-minute speech in which he clearly disapproved of the election and did not mention the name of the opponent. his, Lula da Silva.
Why did Bolsonaro take so long to make the announcement? Another possible reason is that he was waiting to see how the protests that followed the election would be and what kind of support he would have if he contested the election results. But the protest did not have much impact, and no one involved in the media, religion, military or politics supported the protest.
Brazil’s ever-powerful political class began to think about strategies to survive in a post-Bolsonaro environment. The powerful president of the Chamber of Deputies, a strong supporter of Bolsonaro, declared that “the will of the majority, as expressed in the elections, cannot be opposed” and began negotiations with the team of the newly elected president. his position in the future administration of Lula. Therefore, 48 hours after the election, Bolsonaro isolated himself even more. When he finally decided to break his silence, he decided that his best option would be to assert his position as a political leader, thanking his supporters and saying that now “the right it was really born in our country.”
Another lesson Americans can take from the Brazilian election is that when dealing with strong presidential candidates seeking re-election, the speed of counting votes matters. With the country’s electronic voting system – which has been in use for more than a quarter of a century – Brazilians can know the results of elections a few hours after the polls close. Before Bolsonaro could say a single word, world leaders, with Biden at the forefront, had already thanked his opponent; the politicians who supported Bolsonaro accepted defeat, even his vice president, the military commander, had begun to discuss the change. The speed with which it all happened left little room for maneuver. On the other hand, in the United States, it took days for voters to know the results, giving Trump and his supporters enough time to make false accusations of electoral fraud and dispute the results when they were finally known.
As in the case of the United States, Brazil’s relatively young democracy will also suffer from the consequences of the behavior of a president who did not follow the basic rules of political behavior. Although things may seem normal, when the newly elected president takes control after the construction process, public signs will be delayed.
Bolsonaro, like Trump, will no longer hold office – but Bolsonarismolike Trumpism, it will remain a political force for years to come.
The destruction of the political culture of the people that formed the basis of their appeal is now a reality regardless of who leads the system. And if Trump wins the White House again in 2024 — which is unlikely — his ten-year-old Brazilian student will 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 the Government That Served,” selected by Foreign Affairs Magazine as one of the best books in International Relations of 2012.