The intriguing absence of Bolsonaro after losing the elections in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Since he lost his re-election to Lula, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has remained silent and secluded in his official residence in the capital, without giving any explanations, creating a disturbing atmosphere of power vacuum at the highest echelon of the State.

Only after more than two weeks of confinement, interpreted by analysts as the sign of a furious inability to accept defeat, did a first official explanation appear.

The isolation of Bolsonaro, 67, in the Palacio de la Alvorada since October 30, is due to erysipelas, a bacterial skin infection that affects one of his legs, his vice president, Hamilton Mourao, said on Wednesday.

“He has a health problem. He can’t wear pants. How is he going to wear shorts?” the vice president explained to the newspaper O Globo, information that has not yet been confirmed by the presidency.

The vice president himself had told the daily Valor shortly before that Bolsonaro was being held for “a spiritual retreat.”

General Mourao even hinted that Bolsonaro’s confinement could last until the end of his term.

“I am not the president. I cannot hand over the presidential sash to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva,” he told the Valor newspaper in case Bolsonaro rejects that ritual on the day of his successor’s inauguration, on January 1, 2023.

Reduced agenda

The night of his defeat by just over two million votes against Lula, Bolsonaro preferred to go to bed without acknowledging the victory of the leftist leader.

Two days later he reappeared for a brief and convoluted speech, half-acknowledging his defeat, while evoking “the outrage” and “feeling of injustice” from his supporters.

His social media accounts, hyperactive under his presidency, have been virtually silent for nearly three weeks.

The president of the largest nation in Latin America missed the G20 summit in Bali and the COP27 climate conference this week.

He was also replaced by his vice president for the presentation of the credentials of various ambassadors, including Argentina’s, as confirmed to AFP by a diplomatic source from this country.

His official agenda, communicated by the presidency, is very limited: only half-hour meetings with ministers or advisors, always in the Alvorada.

Bolsonaro also abandoned his traditional Thursday night broadcast on Facebook, where he used to question the media’s approach to current affairs and defend his management, speaking directly to Brazilians.

The “wounded ego”

For Oliver Stuenkel, from the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), the presidential silence is above all political.

Bolsonaro “cannot officially recognize the result (of the election), but neither can he explicitly challenge it for fear of problems with electoral justice,” he told AFP.

“Keeping silent is the best solution” for the president, said the FGV professor. “He does not want to lose the support of his most radical supporters who are demonstrating in front of the army headquarters” in favor of military intervention. “And works”.

On Tuesday, a holiday in Brazil, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the big cities against Lula’s victory, which they consider “stolen.”

On social networks, Internet users leaned more towards the psychological hypothesis to explain the silence of the far-right president.

“He is depressed and apathetic. His defeat destroyed his immunity,” one Twitter user joked. “But where is that injury that prevents Bolsonaro from working?” asked another, “In the leg? In the ego?”

Sylvio Costa, from the Congresso em Foco site, did not rule out that “denial has turned into depression” in Bolsonaro, who “stopped working.”

“This is his first defeat after nine electoral victories” in more than 30 years: he was elected councilor of Rio, seven times deputy and then president.

“His friends abandon him, he is the subject of a dozen investigations and he fears jail, I think he feels lost,” said Costa.

What can happen between now and January 1?

Bolsonaro could “remain confined, or reappear with a coup speech and create the greatest possible turbulence” for the Lula government, Costa assesses.

Meanwhile, Lula was received as if he were already the head of state at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, and multiplied high-level meetings: “Brazil is back!” he exclaimed.

“In the elections, those who win laugh and those who lose cry. It seems to me that those who were defeated now did not know how to lose,” the president-elect said from Lisbon on Saturday.

The intriguing absence of Bolsonaro after losing the elections in Brazil