Brazilian election a microcosm of polarized politics in the context of world turmoil
Published: Aug 29, 2022 11:09 PM
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (PL), speaks during the first Presidential Debate ahead of the national election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 28, 2022. Photo: IC

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (PL), speaks during the first Presidential Debate ahead of the national election, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 28, 2022. Photo: IC

Brazil's election campaign officially kicked off in mid-August. Several rounds of opinion polls conducted by polling agencies have shown that former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who represents the left-wing Workers' Party, has an obvious advantage. The far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection, did not buy it. In his speech on August 15, he said wildly, "I have three alternatives for my future: being arrested, killed or victory." There is widespread concern over whether Bolsonaro's supporters will follow the example of Donald Trump supporters in rejecting election results and staging a "Capitol riot."

Although the election campaign has just begun, most of the voices from the international community predicted that Lula would win. Some dignitaries insisted on meeting with Lula when they visited Brazil, despite Bolsonaro's opposition, to show that they are taking a side. For example, when President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited Brazil in July, he first met with Lula in S?o Paulo. Bolsonaro was angry and announced that he would cancel the planned lunch with him. When Vice President-elect of Colombia Francia Márquez visited Brazil, instead of meeting Bolsonaro, she directly met Lula. 

To turn the tide of the election, Bolsonaro tried everything he could. Internally, Bolsonaro has touted Brazil is successful under his leadership. To get more support from the military, he picked former defence minister Walter Braga Netto as his running mate. Externally, Bolsonaro met with the diplomats of more than 40 countries at the Presidential Palace, and signalled to the US that "if the left wins the October election in Brazil, it will never leave power as South America turns completely red, virtually isolating the US."

Facing Bolsonaro's momentum, Lula has sought to expand public support. He formed a coalition of the Workers' Party, the Green Party, and the Communist Party, and has tried to win the support of the centrist parties. What's more, he said that he is not greedy for power, but only fights for the interests of the Brazilian people, announcing that he's likely to serve only one term if he wins back the presidency in October's election.?Furthermore, the Lula camp has made every effort to promote the campaign document "2023-2026 Brazil Reconstruction and Transformation Plan," which promised that Lula's return would restore "beautiful Brazil."

With fierce competition between the two candidates, tensions between supporters on both sides have risen. In his speech, Bolsonaro referred to his supporters as "an army." Lula has received sporadic threats of attack in recent weeks, and his campaign team has urged him to wear bulletproof vests at public events. 

The election in Brazil has shown rare intensity of party rivalry and left-right confrontation. The current president's threatening rhetoric and the hateful words and deeds of supporters on both sides highlight the fragility and uncertainty of Brazil's political system that is beyond the stage of the country's economic and social development. The social confrontation brought about by the election is not only a reflection of the inherent structural contradictions of Brazil's politics and economy, but also a microcosm of "polarized politics" in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and world turmoil. 

As the largest emerging country in the southern hemisphere, Brazil's political trend is a regional wind vane. If Lula is elected, it will push the wave of left-wing return to the region, which will inevitably have an important impact on the geopolitics of Latin America and the reconstruction of international order.

The author is director at the Department for Developing Countries Studies, China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn