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Brazil - Election 2018

Brazil's political terrain is polarized due to seemingly-endless corruption investigations and a less than lukewarm economic recovery, which has fed into rising crime rates, high insecurity, economic sluggishness, endemic corruption and societal crisis. Over the last two years, the Brazilian currency lost a quarter of its value, the unemployment rate remains above 12 percent and the lack of economic reforms hinders the foreign investments that have helped keep the economy afloat over the last few years.

The economic slowdown and corruption scandals have also deepened a rampant societal crisis across the country, best embodied by the state of Rio de Janeiro. The iconic Brazilian tourist destination, plagued by gangs and violence, was stormed last month by military forces in the hopes of preventing chaos across a region where someone dies every 90 minutes of gun violence and gang rivalries. Brazil is locked in a deep-seated state of hatred, especially against the poor, blacks and leftists a sentiment aggravated by the ongoing financial crisis. It feels as though every road leads to another military intervention. All over the country, leftist militants and intellectuals are experiencing institutionalized persecution by public sectors.

From a leftist perspective, the most pressing issues include undoing austerity measures, which include a 20-year freeze on public spending, privatization of public companies and labor deform, all enacted on Temer's watch.

Another pressing issue is security. For the second year in a row, the number of murders in Brazil has broken records: a total of 63,880 people were killed in 2017, a three percent increase from the previous year. Averaging 175 homicides per day, or 7.2 every hour, the murder rate is equivalent to that of a country engulfed in war, according to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security. The 2017 murder rate had also reached new heights, up from 29.9 to 30.8 deaths per 100,000 per people.

Operation Car Wash corruption investigations, kickback schemes, the mere hint that someone uttered Odebrecht and non-stop corporate media proclivity for their darling candidates shrouded Brazil's October 2018 presidential election in uncertainty.

That comes without mentioning over a year lost since the country's first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, fell victim to what many observers denote as a parliamentary coup, giving way to senate-imposed President Michel Temer.

His gratuitous term in office, rejected by 88 percent of the people, according to the latest CNI/Ibope poll, is a tipsy walk down memory lane austerity on steroids, labor reforms, proposed pension reforms, a 20-year cap on public spending, auctioning or sale of Petrobras and other publicly-owned companies and lapdog adherence to the whims of the international market.

Rhetoric of change has convinced few, especially compared to the daily struggle for basic necessities. Even the cost of residential gas cylinders, needed to fire up one's stove to prepare daily meals, had skyrocketed more than 67 percent since August 2017 by the end of the year.

Populism could be the big winner in 2018. Everywhere, endless waves of corruption scandals have destroyed peoples confidence in politics without strengthening their trust in the constitutional state. In Latin Americas two largest national economies, Brazil and Mexico, corruption is also discrediting efforts to implement a more sustainable economic policy that emphasizes self-supporting growth rather than redistribution.

Given the disastrous crisis of confidence in Brazil, what the country really needs first, before it holds elections, is a fundamental reform of the political system. Since the very contentious impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the political camps have become even more entrenched in their positions. Corruption investigations at the highest level have brought all the major parties into disrepute; President Michel Temer is the most unpopular head of state in the world, with approval ratings that barely scrape five percent.

Ultimately, the stakes are high when it comes to Brazil's 2018 presidential election. South America's geographic giant is a horse fueling its economic engine, trade and commerce in the broader region and beyond. Uncertainty standing in the way between Lula and his candidacy has mobilized people on the frontlines. Their mission: to regain the narrative of social progress over a debauchery of judicial meddling and a genuine media circus poised to neutralize the country's most popular politician. The battle reached almost messianic proportions, which, in itself, presented dangers in the way of the democratic process.

The 14 March 2018 murder of Marielle Franco, an activist and local politician, gave many Brazilians reason to fear for their security especially the country's poor. The fact that such a murder can go unpunished only added fuel to the fire of citizens' mistrust of public institutions.

Lula da Silva - The Once and Future President??

Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, confirmed 11 January 2017 that "he is preparing" to run for the presidency in 2018, should it "be necessary." Bearing that his candidacy is not invalidated through a salacious corporate media and lawfare campaign, Lula will, more likely than not, win a third term in office next year. In his first public speech of the year, the politician said he would be traveling the country in 2017 to restore his image and that of his Workers' Party, "which have been criminalized by the press and the justice system." Lula, who served as president of Brazil in 2003-2010, made the remarks at an event of the Landless Workers' Movement in the northern city of Salvador de Bahia. Lula was accompanied by Jaques Wagner, the former chief of staff to impeached President Dilma Rousseff, and the former president of Petrobras, Sergio Gabrielli. In reference to allegations that his opponents may seek a legal injunction to stop him from running through the courts, Lula said that everybody should be able to run for president.

The only politician who still enjoys a good reputation among his party faithful at least is the legendary Lula da Silva. However, he probably wont be allowed to stand as he too is facing corruption charges. And so it is that the complex, patronage-based Brazilian party system has put Jair Bolsonaro, an unappetizing right-wing populist, homophobic racist and declared supporter of the former military dictatorship, in second place in the opinion polls, right behind former president Lula.

The seeds of Lula's mass popularity began to spawn back in 1968, in broad day of Brazil's military dictatorship, when he joined the Sao Bernardo Metal Workers Union, an organization he considered to be so "boring" that he preferred staying at home watching soap operas.

Elected president of the workers' union in 1975, Lula advocated for workers' rights, organized mass strikes and sought to improve communication within their ranks. Having experienced drought, famine, plagues and abject poverty during his childhood in Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco, Lula would never forget his less than humble beginnings, nor working as a shoeshine boy in 1953, when the people of Brazil elected him president in 2003.

What else but a slew of social programs to mark his two terms in office, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the U.N. World Hunger Map. When the World Food Program hailed the country as a champion in the fight against hunger, former Social Development Minister Tereza Campello said, leaving the Hunger Map is a historic milestone for Brazil."

"We are very proud because overcoming hunger was a priority for the Brazilian state," she added. One of Lula's most ambitious and successful programs was, and still is, the Family Allowance (Bolsa Familia). Launched in 2003, it provides stipends to families living below the poverty line. In turn, those families must prove that their children are attending school and have been vaccinated. Also, his achievements in housing and education pale in comparison to those who ruled the country over the past 500 years.

A regional court in Brazil, which had sentenced former Brazilian President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva to 12 years in prison for corruption, rejected 26 March 2018 the appeal request filed by his defense team leaving him one step away from prison as he awaited the ruling of the countrys Supreme Court on 04 April 2018.

Lula topped every presidential election poll, including those conducted by Datafolha, Vox Populi, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana and Ipsos. The March 2018 National Confederation of Transportation/MDA presidential survey revealed that Lula continued to lead the presidential race in every single scenario researched. His two terms in office were marked by a slew of social programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the UN World Hunger Map.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva can be jailed on corruption charges, the Supreme Court ruled 04 April 2018. The move would apparently block Lula's reelection bid, despite strong public support. The Supreme Federal Court (STF) voted 6-5 to deny Lula's plea and ruled he must start serving a 12-year prison sentence for graft. According to the ruling, Lula may now be arrested at any time and will likely not be allowed to run for president in October. The decision was the latest step in a series of actions in Brazil, which critics of the current government described as a creeping right-wing takeover of the nation's democratic institutions.

Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro is Lula's closest opponent in the 2018 election. In November 2017, during an audio-taped interview with the Financial Times, Bolsonaro took time to note that people enjoyed total freedom" during the country's military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964-1984, claiming that Brazilians traveled to Disneyland and returned home.

In 2016, during Rousseff's impeachment vote, he used his congressional speaking time to not only rally in favor of her ouster, but also praise Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the dictatorship's notorious torture program in the 1970s. He cited Ustra as the source of Dilma Rousseff's dread, referring to the fact that she, as a young woman, was imprisoned for three years for being a leftist guerrilla and suffered torture, including electrocution under his watch.

Dilma maintained her composure before responding. She told reporters that Bolsonaro's remarks were regrettable, a dignified understatement considering the women who had rats shoved in their vaginas and tortured in other ways during those dark days marked by Latin American dictatorships.

Having proposed restoring military rule during his political career, Bolsonaro has also been quoted as saying that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet "should have killed more people. Moreover, he has said, Women should earn less because they get pregnant" and "I'd be incapable of loving a homosexual son."

Army Commander-in-Chief, Eduardo Villas-Boas pressured the court's judges to deliver a negative verdict against the former Brazilian President. 03 April 2018 Villas-Boas stated that the armed forces rejects impunity and demands respect for the Constitution, social peace and democracy. These remarks, which were broadcast by Globo and other corporate media outlets, were sharply criticized by left-wing politicians, who say the comments were meant to intimidate supreme court judges into upholding Lula's corruption conviction.

Brazilian General Luiz Gonzaga Schroeder Lessa told reporters that if the Federal Superior Tribunal did not give the green light to the prison sentence of former President Ignacio Lula da Silva tomorrow, the only option left would be a military intervention. The Armed Forces have to restore public order, he told the daily Estadao, claiming that if the Tribunal allowed Lula to remain free during the presidential electoral campaign, this decision will foment violence, a few days after Lula's caravan was repeatedly attacked as he was campaigning for the upcoming elections. General Paulo Chagas affirmed that we want to avoid that the law changes and that the leader of a criminal organization, sentenced to 12 years in prison, could circulate freely, spreading hate and class struggle.

In September 2017, 48 percent of Brazilians supported another military coup. That number had risen by March 2018 to 74 percent in Rio: "a laboratory to Brazil," according to General Braga Neto. He headed President Temer's military intervention in Rio and was clearly insinuating his intention to militarize the entire country again no surprise, given recent events and daily life since 2013, when Brazil experienced its 'Spring.'

Jair Bolsonaro is often labelled the Brazilian version of Donald Trump. His pro-gun, evangelical political platform, marked by a nostalgia for the days of military dictatorship, has drawn the support of the wealthiest segments of Brazilian society and pro-business organisations. Bolsonaro is a defender of Brazil's military dictatorship during the years 1964 to 1985 and has called for reinstating the death penalty. Brazilian voters seldom vote for extremes, whether left or right.

Far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro picked an army reserve general 05 August 2018 to be his running mate for Brazil's October elections. Bolsonaro, who is the candidate of the Social Liberal Party, announced his choice of reserve Gen. Hamilton Mourao, who belongs to the right-wing Brazilian Labor Renewal Party. Brazilian political parties are small and seek to form alliances in setting their presidential tickets. Mourao made headlines in 2017 with comments perceived as supportive of military intervention in politics at a time of widespread corruption. Speaking at a Masonic lodge in Brazil's capital, Mourao said intervention by the armed forces was possible if the country's political problems were not repaired. "Either the courts remove those involved in illicit acts from the public service, or the army will," he said.

Bolsonaro is a congressman and former army captain who has said he will fill his Cabinet with former and current military people. His promises to crack down on corruption and crime have him running second in the polls, though with only about 20 percent in a crowded field of potential candidates and he has come under strong criticism for numerous racist, sexist and homophobic comments over the years.

During the 2016 impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party (PT), he used his congressional speaking time not only to rally in favor of her ouster, but also to praise Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the dictatorship's notorious torture program in the 1970s. Bolsonaro cited Ustra as "the source of Dilma Rousseff's dread," referring to the fact that, as a young woman, Rousseff had been imprisoned for three years for being a leftist guerrilla and was tortured, including being electrocuted, under his watch. The seven-term Rio de Janeiro congressman has also been quoted as saying that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet "should have killed more people." During a recent interview with NPR, Bolsonaro said the dictatorship was "very good" becaues it "prevented Brazil from falling under the sway of the Soviet Union." Other comments that have drawn ire include: "Women should earn less because they get pregnant;" that the inhabitants of Afro-Brazilian communities that resisted slavery known as quilombos are "not even good for breeding anymore;" and that he would be "incapable of loving a homosexual son."

A Fragmented Political Landscape

The ultra-conservative Evangelical Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), which is supported by the neo-Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is part of the coalition which supports the incumbent president, Michel Temer. The party was behind the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. Twenty-two percent of Brazils population is evangelical, according to official figures, increasing by 61 percent between 2000 and 2012. Marcelo Crivella, the elected mayor of Rio de Janeiro, served as religious pastor of the influential Universal Church of the Kingdom of God which was founded by his uncle Edir Macedo. According to the last Census, Crivellas congregation numbered 1.87 million faithful. Macedo was cataloged by Forbes magazine as one of the richest men in Brazil in 2015, with a fortune valued at 3,000 million real (about US $1.1 billion), that includes the Record television network, the second most important in the country.

Several political newcomers were waiting to formalise their interests. Among them, two names are regularly mentioned as serious options: former Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa and TV celebrity Luciano Huck. Barbosa made a name for himself championing the fight against corruption during his tenure at the helm of the Federal Supreme Court. His lack of political experience would be less of an obstacle than the fact that Brazil is probably not ready to elect a black president.

Luciano Hucks media personality, however, and his main-street appeal match better with the average Brazilian voter despite the absence of a track record. The TV presenter has already denied twice that hes contemplating a run for the presidency but the constant courting from business circles and his recent statements on the need to fix Brazilian politics have only reaffirmed speculations about his real intentions.

Bolsonaros lead in early polls in the absence of Lula, would not guarantee him a victory in a two-round ballot as his positions are too extreme to build alliances with others. Amid this polarisation, no centrist politician seems up for the task of filling the vacuum. Moderate candidates and political veterans such as Geraldo Alckmin and Ciro Gomes have failed to gain any momentum among an electorate disheartened by the never-ending corruption scandals.

The front-runner in the polls was jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers' Party, who was a highly popular leader during his two terms in 2003-2010. The party formally named him its candidate, but da Silva is likely to be barred by Brazil's electoral court because he is in prison. The former president has been jailed on a corruption conviction since April, but he denies wrongdoing and claims he is being politically persecuted.

The presidential field broadens after the two top runners. An an Ibope poll was released 20 August 2018. The poll, which had margin of error was 2 percentage points, interviewed 2,002 people between Aug. 17 and 19.

  1. Jair Bolsonaro former army captain and seven-term congressman has tapped into deep unease in Brazil, which is reeling from a sweeping corruption scandal and is struggling to grow again after a protracted recession. Bolsonaro has expressed nostalgia for the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, has been repeatedly fined for offensive comments, and has made cracking down on crime a centerpiece of his campaign. He says he supports market-friendly economic policies but gave few details. After da Silva, he garners the most support, between 18 to 20 percent in an Ibope poll released Monday. But Bolsonaro is backed by a small party that will get only a small share of the free TV air time allocated by law for campaigns. He would also have to overcome high disapproval ratings.

  2. Marina Silva's support jumps from 6 percent to 12 percent in the Ibope poll when Lula da Silva's name is removed from polls. Silva, who once served as da Silva's environment minister, has a dramatic personal story: She suffered numerous illnesses and often went hungry as a child. She didn't learn to read and write until her teens. Silva nearly upended the last presidential race when her party's candidate died during the campaign and she took his place. She initially surged in polls, tapping into voter discontent and attracting Brazilians on both the left and right. Back then and to this day, however, Silva has struggled to define herself, beyond her focus on environmental issues. The upcoming Brazilian presidential elections became even more uncertain with no candidate clearly breaking away from the pack. Lulas absence should benefit left-wing candidate Marina Silva who could snag the votes of PT supporters after two unsuccessful runs for the presidency. She was Lulas former Environment Minister and her tiny green party will be strongly opposed by agribusiness and mining companies throughout the campaign. However, in a country marked by a profound rejection of the political class, symbolized by current President Temer setting new historic records of unpopularity, her chances are now realistic.

  3. Ciro Gomes, a left-leaning candidate with roots in da Silva's stronghold of the northeast, is another beneficiary when former president Lula is removed from polls. Gomes has extensive experience, having served as governor, mayor, minister and federal congressman, and would be prepared to navigate the halls of power in Brasilia from Day 1. He appeals to voters who are disgusted with dirty dealings so common in Brazilian politics, touting the fact that has remained clean, despite decades in public service. Gomes has struggled to unite the left he attracted between 5 and 9 percent support in the Ibope poll and he has a reputation for being prickly and saying controversial things.

  4. Geraldo Alckmin is a three-time governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest and richest state. Alckmin has a lot of executive experience. At a time when deteriorating public security is of growing concern to many voters, Alckmin can run on the city of Sao Paulo's remarkable reduction in its murder rate. He is a conservative who supports market-friendly economic policies, like scaling back the country's faltering social security system, making him the darling of investors. But Alckmin lacks charisma and his poll numbers have been in the single digits. He also has high disapproval ratings. However, Alckmin will get significant funding and free TV time because of the size of his Brazilian Social Democracy Party and alliances he has made.

  5. Fernando Haddad, a former Sao Paulo Mayor, was chosen by Lula's Workers' Party as its vice presidential candidate, and it looks likely he will assume the top spot if the Supreme Electoral Court rejects da Silva's candidacy. On 06 August 2018 the Workers' Party said that former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad would be its vice presidential candidate. Haddad was mayor of Brazil's biggest city in 2013-2016 but lost his re-election bid. He was education minister in the administrations of da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff. In the Ibope poll, Haddad garnered only 4 percent support when he replaced da Silva. But two-thirds of da Silva's supporters have indicated they would vote for whomever he eventually endorses. The question is if that endorsement might come too late in the campaign to give Haddad's numbers a chance to rise.

  6. Guilherme Boulos, the Liberty and Socialism Party candidate, appearing with single-digit support months ago, has found it difficult to break the one percent barrier in terms of voting intention. He's the national coordinator of the Homeless Workers' Movement and supports both Lula's release from prison and Lula's presidential candidacy. "Good night to President Lula, who should be here, but is unduly in jail in Curitiba while (Senate-imposed President Michel) Temer is free in Brasilia," Boulos said during the first presidential debate. Boulos called out Bolsonaro during the first presidential debate, saying: "Everybody knows you are machista, racist (and) homophobic." Previously characterizing Bolsonaro as a "caricature" of U.S. President Donald Trump, he even cautioned voters that Bolsonaro "presents himself as someone who is going to combat criminality, but he himself is a criminal."

Former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, running for the Brazilian Democratic Movement, also took aim at Bolsonaro's brash style, saying: "Jobs cannot be created by screaming," according to the Washington Post. He fluctuates in single-digits in terms of voting intention. So does Alvaro Dias of the Podemos (PODE) party. He also criticized Bolsonaro's stance towards women, reminding voters that Bolsonaro once said women should be paid less than men because they "get pregnant."

Other candidates participating in the initial debate included Marina Silva (Sustainability Network) and Cabo Daciolo (Patriota).

If Lula is kept in prison and prevented from running, his party the PT said Lula will throw his weight behind former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad as its presidential candidate. The strategy is already showing results: an XP Invetimentos/Ipespe survey conducted between August 6 and 8 shows Haddad in second place with 13 percent, eight percentage points behind Bolsonaro's 21 percent, if Lula parlays his political clout.

Brazil's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) voted 31 august 2018 to ban former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from running in the next presidential elections during a special session brought forward more than two weeks. Minister Edson Fachin later voted in favor of Lula, on the grounds of the UN Human Rights Committee's legally binding demand to guarantee political rights for Lula, let him run in the elections and even campaign from prison if necessary. Fachin said an international agreement couldn't be violated by a court. Fachin was the only one to vote in Lula's favor. The Workers' Party (PT) and the former president's defense team could still appeal to the Supreme Court. Another alternative is to postulate an alternate president and vice-president formula, but that could limit PTs chances.

Lula enjoyed about 39 percent of the vote intention in most polls, the most recent by Datafolha, leaving far behind right-wing Jair Bolsonaro with 19 percent. Lula had associating his name with Fernando Haddad, who is currently the vice-presidential candidate and would replace Lula if the need ultimately arose, transfer the vote intention. The party had until Sept. 17 to change the names on the ballot, but the court had given it just 10 days to make the alteration.

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