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Bolsonaro’s strategy: question elections and distribute public funds

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Brazilian Jaciara Carneiro, 48, has not lost any of the enthusiasm that led her to vote for Jair Bolsonaro. And it will do so again next October. “He is my candidate, the candidate of family, of values. It’s our only hope. All good people support him,” he says in a message exchange on WhatsApp. This businesswoman, who lives in Bahia state and has three children, is a textbook Bolsonarian, part of the third of the electorate strong in support of the far right in the final stretch of a mandate marked by the pandemic and runaway inflation ( 11 , 8% in 12 months), institutional dismantling and a Brazil known internationally for its environmental policies.

But the votes of hard-line Bolsonaristas like Ms Carneiro are not enough for the 67-year-old retired military man to win re-election. According to polls, it provokes rejection by more than half of voters. Often defined as a soldier on a God-appointed mission, the President often warns, “Only God will get me out of this chair.” And recently he also insists that “this choice is not between left and right, but between good and evil”.

This Sunday, Bolsonaro will make his candidacy official alongside the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The mission is very uphill for him, according to polls and precedents: the ruling parties, the ruling party, have lost all democratic elections in Latin America since 2018. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 76, has maintained a solid lead in the polls for months. The same one the judges disqualified in 2018 and rehabilitated in 2021. An adversary who talks to the right-wing extremists like gloves with me or against me.

A protester takes part in a protest in support of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, in July 2022. Mateus Bonomi (Getty Images)

The current president’s strategy of reversing that prediction and getting a second term (and denying Lula a third) is based on two pillars: allocate public money, lots of money, especially to the poor (priority to the left during her tenure). governments) and question the voting system.

Political scientist Talita Tanscheit claims that Bolsonaro is “already sabotaging the electoral process because he knows he will lose. This will be a campaign focused not on praising his government actions but on discrediting the outcome.”

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The most important innovation in recent weeks is that the Bundeswehr has fully engaged in the controversial issue of the election process. To appease Bolsonaro and try to disable a speech that undermines democracy, the Supreme Electoral Court invited the military to help scrutinize the process. It turns out the uniformed men have started making suggestions – including some consistent with the president’s unproven theses – and he took the gauntlet to ask them to help with the recount.

For Tanscheit, “the military have become the president’s allies in his election campaign and legitimize his speech. What matters is whether the result is accepted.” In this sense, the recent examples of Colombia and Chile carry enormous weight. It did not take long for the losing candidates, both from the extreme right, to publicly acknowledge the result and congratulate the winners.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian Army Commander General Marco Antonio Freire Gomes in April 2022.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Brazilian Army Commander General Marco Antonio Freire Gomes in April 2022.Mateus Bonomi (Getty Images)

In the last election, Bolsonaro, like his admired Donald Trump before him, masterfully took advantage of his despise furnishings as the most extravagant candidate on the menu. Now and forever emulating the former President of the United States known as Trump of the tropics He’s been preparing the ground for a hypothetical defeat for months. Opponents fear that the retired captain will not acknowledge the outcome, mobilize his followers and, in the worst of the speculated scenarios, end violently, in the style of a storming of the Capitol.

On September 7, the 199th anniversary of Brazil’s independence from Portugal, far-right Bolsonaro gathered his supporters in São Paulo. Carneiro traveled from Bahia with her husband and other Bolsonaro couples to listen to him live. In front of the crowd, the President threatened to ignore the decisions of a Supreme Court Justice who has been his black animal for months. Now he shares the title of most hated with the President of the Supreme Electoral Court.

Entrepreneur Carneiro is convinced that four years ago Bolsonaro was elected on the first ballot, not on the second. “In 2018 there was fraud, we have documents. What happens is we won again in the second round,” he proclaims, before adding that President Bolsonaro “would accept a fair, honest and correct result.”

Protest in support of gun rights and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in July 2022 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Protest in support of gun rights and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in July 2022 in Brasilia, Brazil.Mateus Bonomi (Getty Images)

The Bolsonaristas have created a narrative, which they are frantically circulating on social media, in which they are the champions of democracy and the rest, including the Supreme Court and electoral authorities, are the coup plotters. When asked if she fears violence, the Bahian businesswoman replies, “Violence, we? No, that’s on the other side, most are ruthlessly violent.” Just days earlier, a supporter of the president shot dead a member of Lula’s party who was at a party celebrating his birthday.

One of the most frequently asked questions in the Brazilian press is: “Will there be a coup d’etat?” The answer is never short. The current notion is that Bolsonaro can sow chaos and confusion, but the armed forces will not accompany him on a coup adventure. Another thing is the retired generals who surround him or whisper in his ear. One of them emerges as number two in the candidacy, despite pressure being put on Bolsonaro to vote for a woman to ease the tremendous resentment he’s evoking among female voters.

Bolsonaro’s criticism of electronic ballot boxes and the electoral system in general is not new, he has been repeating it for years, even though it is the same system that has brought him and three of his sons one elected office after the other. The Bolsonaro clan is strategically distributed. The Patriarch in the Planalto Palace. Flavio, the eldest son, known to the family as 01, is a federal senator; Carlos, 02, the big digital strategist, state MP in Rio, and Eduardo, 03, link between Spanish party Vox, Steve Bannon and the rest of the national-populist international, is federal MP for São Paulo.

Although the pre-election climate, fueled by the ongoing polls, settled in Brazil practically the day Lula returned to the political arena after a stint in prison – the convictions that barred him from running in 2018 were overturned – there are almost three months until the first round on October 2nd. According to the latest data from Datafolha, Lula takes 19 points off him. But as 2018 has shown, sometimes there is a surprise.

Election advertising in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2022.
Election advertising in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2022. RICARDO MORAES (REUTERS)

Last Monday, Bolsonaro received the foreign ambassadors in Brasilia to convey unfounded suspicions about the upcoming elections. Since Brazil introduced electronic ballot boxes 25 years ago, not a single relevant fraud has been uncovered. But he doubts it. Before addressing the issue, he referred to past elections: “I was elected President of the Republic with less than a million dollars and a hospital bed.”

His election victory came unexpectedly. After all, he was a minor MP who had not thrown out a single law in three decades, he was only famous for his nostalgia for the dictatorship, his homophobia and his outbursts. Lula da Silva was in prison. A madman’s sting severely injured Bolsonaro and removed him from the debates. And he knew how to capitalize on the anger of those fed up with a lifetime of politics and the hatred unleashed against the left when it was discovered that like other parties it was corrupt and stealing from the common fund .

But life on the brink of power is tough. And when Bolsonaro saw his position in jeopardy due to the outrage caused by his careless attitude and contempt for science – and the dead – in the pandemic, he unapologetically realigned himself with the old politics he so much berated to attain the presidency. Those factions without ideology who offer their support to the highest bidder. They guarantee his survival in office, and with them and the opposition he has received a stream of money – $7,500 million (about 7,344 million euros) – to alleviate the inflation that plagues the most disadvantaged. Thanks to the legislative juggling that Brazilian lawmakers love so much, the measure was passed despite the tax ceiling. And with great support. Let’s see which MP seeking re-election votes against economic aid for millions of poor people in the midst of the crisis. The next president will have to plug the hole in the state coffers.

Formerly known as Bolsa Familia, the program, which Bolsonaro renamed Auxilio Brasil to break away from Lula’s Workers’ Party, will grow significantly, reaching more families, additional help for gas purchases and truck drivers get a gas check. Measures that generally expire on December 31, the day before the winner of the election takes office.

A supporter of Jair Bolsonaro wears a mask with the Brazilian President's face in Brasilia in May 2020.
A supporter of Jair Bolsonaro wears a mask with the Brazilian President’s face in Brasilia in May 2020. Adressa Anholete (Getty Images)

Along the way since his election as president, Bolsonaro has lost the support of many evangelical women — frightened by his lack of empathy for the 600,000 deaths from the coronavirus and the increasing ease of buying guns that end up killing their children — by many of them those who credited him with long-delayed economic liberalization reforms, or those from the middle class who put their trust in him and now blame him for the poor economic situation.

A while after answering the questions, the businesswoman Carneiro sends three more wasps. He, like many other Bolsonaro campaign ads, is rerouting networks with a long list of taxes he has cut or abolished since taking office. An unexpected triumph that he owes to this businesswoman and 57 million other Brazilians.

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