The alternation arrives in Brazil, but the right consolidates despite everything

Democracy is a system in which the governing party, or simply the government, loses elections. Bolsonaro has lost re-election and there will be alternation in Brazil. He has finally won the Lula-Alckmin duo. The process has not yet finished, since Lula will assume the presidency of the republic on January 1, 2023.

In Brazil we talk about embarrassed direita (embarrassed right) to describe a phenomenon in which right-wing elites and parties shy away from that label, usually choosing to affirm that they are from the center. Even decades after the end of the military dictatorship that the country suffered (1964-1985) that shame has persisted. She is a remarkably enduring facet of elite political culture in Brazil. Or, at least, this has been the case until the 2018 elections, when Bolsonaro won, and the 2022 elections have confirmed it.

Since the impeachmentimpeachment) to President Dilma Rousseff, of the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), in 2016, the Brazilian party system has suffered a considerable ideological reconfiguration. It is important to note that this reconfiguration has occurred in the field of the right, because on the left side the PT continues to be the main leftist force, the one with the best electoral results and the largest spaces of power it occupies.

An uninhibited right

Thus, it has emerged on the right side of the political spectrum a new phenomenonan unapologetic right-wing force, openly defending ultra-conservative values, associated with the parliamentary caucuses of the three Bs: Bible, bullet and ox. And the B that has best articulated this new force, to the point of giving it its own ism, has been Bolsonaro.

The traditional center-right party, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), has been reduced to the bare minimum. This party, which came to occupy the presidency with Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) and came second in the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 elections, in 2018, after the impeachment to Rousseff and the start of the polarizing spiral that the country lives, obtained less than 5% of the votes, and in the first round of 2022 just over 4%. The rise of Bolsonaro and Bolsonarismo have practically made the options of the center-right or right disappear.

Brazil now has a strongest parliament and leaning more to the right and with a stronger Bolsonarismo, despite all the problems, errors and criticisms during the Bolsonaro mandate (2019-2022). From the mismanagement of the pandemic until the Amazon deforestation.

Lula’s great candidacy

Lula’s campaign played with the option of building a great candidacy as a broad front that would bring together the left to the center-right and win in the first round. For example: Geraldo Alckmin, Lula’s vice-presidential candidate, has developed his entire political career with the PSDB for more than 50 years, which includes having faced to Lula himself in the 2006 presidential elections. Former rivals now united in a presidential ticket in 2022 to defeat Bolsonaro. That was the powerful message of the candidacy.

As for the campaign for the second round, it has been very tense, with fake news (since Lula had made a pact with the devil up to the hypothesis of third electoral round), the police being unbiased on election day and a Superior Electoral Court quite interventionist.

All this has done nothing but put in tension with brazilian democracyenough already stressed in recent years. A Brazilian-style January 6, referring to the storming the capitolis a real threat.

The questioning of the electoral results, the electronic ballot boxes and even the forecasts of the polls have been constant since the Bolsonaro team and possibly will continue.

Bolsonarism, a consolidated force

Bolsonarism has shown great strength in these elections, not only because of the 49% vote in the second round, but also in the Senate, House and different states. Key government figures have obtained representative positions with very good results. Bolsonarismo is the new consolidated force of the Brazilian right.

Regardless of the outcome, October 30, 2022 in Brazil was already destined to be a historic date: either the successful resilience of Jair Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism after a 4-year presidential term (2019-2022) or the successful return of a politician like Lula da Silva after having been president twice (2003-2006, 2007-2010).

From a comparative perspective at the Latin American level, it should be borne in mind that since 2018 no ruling party has won an election at the national level. Brazil confirms this tendency to turn to the opposition, rather than to the left. Thus, Bolsonaro has lost. In fact, he is the first Brazilian president to lose re-election, but he remains the main force of the Brazilian right, and has obtained more than 49% of the votes in the second round. Lula’s third presidency will not have it easy, with a stronger and more Bolsonarist parliament.

The elections have left a country divided into two halves. Brazil is a clear example of the perverse dynamics that polarization can lead to, not only ideological, based on programmatic differences, but also the affectivewhere each half of the country lives with its back to the other half, with a strong rejection, if not hatred, towards the other.

The next key date is January 1, 2023. That is when a new political cycle will begin in Brazil marked by the electoral consolidation of Bolsonarism, the end of the embarrassed direita and, above all, for the return to the presidency of Lula da Silva and the PT after 7 years of right-wing and far-right governments.

The alternation arrives in Brazil, but the right consolidates despite everything