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Brazil - Election 2018

With more than 90 percent of votes counted, far-right Brazilian candidate Jair Bolsonaro was leading in the country's presidential election, electoral court TSE reported 07 October 2018. Bolsonaro had 47 percent of the votes with 92.5 percent of returns in, according to election officials. Bolsonaro, 63, was the expected front-runner going into the election, but the margin of his lead was a surprise. A run-off vote would be held October 28.

His closest rival is leftist candidate Fernando Haddad, who had 28 percent of the vote. Haddad is a stand-in for former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, who is jailed and was barred from running. Although the two men come from different sides of the political spectrum, each ran a campaign based on nostalgia for a return to traditional values and better, simpler times.

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 was Lula's closest opponent in the 2018 election. The seven-term Rio de Janeiro congressman had 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.

Brazils Workers Party (PT) became the top political party in the lower house of the countrys Congress, taking 57 seats out of the bodys 513, while the far-right Social Liberal Party (PSL) of Jair Bolsonaro made a strong showing, coming in second with 51 seats. By comparison, current President Michel Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), for decades a major force in governing coalitions across the political spectrum, is expected shrink to fourth place in the lower chamber with just 33 seats. Several of the highest-profile MDB lawmakers lost their re-election bids, including Senate President Eunicio Oliveira. That clears out powerbrokers who could have extracted costly concessions to pass Bolsonaro's agenda.

Until this year, the PSL was one of dozens of little-known parties in Brazilian politics with a handful of seats and no clear ideology, thanks to laws that make it easy to create and publicly fund new parties.

His grassroots social media campaign electrified the PSL, pushed it further to the right and raised the profile of candidates such as Olimpio Gomes, a former military police major, the most-voted candidate for the Senate in So Paulo Sunday. As a result, the PSL became an outlet for extremely conservative Brazilians who have lacked high-profile representatives. That meant siphoning votes away from center-right mainstays such as the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which was set to lose about 20 of its 49 seats due to its role in graft scandals and compromises with the unpopular Temer government.

Bolsonaro's lead seemed decisive after the first round of elections, but members of Workers' Party and sympathizers have been taking the streets and placing discussion tables where they try to convince those undecisive voters to support Haddad. The last poll by Datafolha gave the far-right candidate 56 percent and Haddad 44 of the valid votes. There were more than 147 million eligible voters in Brazil who decidef over the fate of their country in one of the most important elections for Latin America. Besides the president, voters also electrf governors in 13 states and the Federal District, as well as 19 mayors.

Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidential elections with over 55 percent of the vote beating leftist Fernando Haddad who scored 44.3 percent in the country's most polarized elections in decades. According to the latest polls, support for Bolsonaro grew by six million votes, however, his opponent won an additional 13 million since the first-round elections. Some 21.17 percent of Brazilian abstained from the elections while another 7.43 percent of the ballots were marked null.

Bolsonaro announced that he will not be speaking to the press, but will be making all his public statements via social media.

His win is a voter rejection of the leftist administrations that have governed Brazil for most of the last 15 years. Latin America's largest economy has been stuck in recession since 2014. The political establishment has been rocked by a high-level corruption scandal, and crime and murder rates have spiked. The leader of the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST), Joao Pedro Stedile, argued that the Workers' Party (PT) and the other leftist organizations must build up strength and organize the people to face the future government of Jair Bolsonaro. According to Stedile, if the neoliberal agenda of the new government is materialized, it will generate a social chaos that will allow the popular movements to resume the offensive and mass mobilizations. The social leader warned that the political left and social organizations have the challenge of organizing popular committees throughout Brazil in order to move towards a new debate in the country, on a new sovereign project for an egalitarian and just society.



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