The warning lights are still on in Brazil

The corrosion of citizens’ confidence in representative institutions can currently be seen in Brazil. This is a phenomenon that affects several democracies: what has been called a democracy of dissatisfied democrats. Although for some analysts this discontent is not a problem —they maintain that the attacks on democracy can be neutralized by the leaders and the institutions— the groups that rebel against the democratic system are growing in Brazil and they have come to dominate agendas, whether through mobilization in the streets and online or through political office. The moderate right is attracted or repositioned by these authoritarian movements, which are agile and force changes in the political agenda, influencing other parties to adopt their themes.

The pattern that supports the Brazilian radical right closely matches the profile of the European radical right: the average voter is male, more or less young, with a medium level of education, and opposed to immigration. However, what stands out in Brazil is the expansion of Christian institutions, especially those of Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal origin, legitimized by the speech of the current president.

Guided by Dominion Theology, its followers, mostly from the popular classes, have granted authority to politicians who spread this doctrine. They propagate that the policy has as its objective the establishment of a Christian nation, whose core is the battle of “good against evil”. Many of this army of the faithful are made up of the poorest of the poor, loyal to the religious leadership that supplies these communities with the absent social services and employability of the “brothers”.

This sacred vision of politics has influenced governments, won seats in legislatures, and contested issues such as communication, education, science, family, entertainment, business, and politics. In 2022 the right wing continued to grow, but it was President Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL) that grew bigger. A less physiological and more ideological PL influenced by Bolsonarism that has infiltrated this and other parties that validate religious or radical visions of politics.

It is difficult to count the exact number of politicians elected in 2022 who adhere to the radical right – since they are not linked to a single party – and have gone on to occupy representative positions. Since the legitimization of antisecular agendas, not only the moderate right has lost space in public opinion and in institutions. The entry into the electoral market of politicians who preach against secularism and secularism is another sign of the erosion of Brazilian democracy.

The presidential campaign bore little resemblance to the democracy that had been in place in Brazil for more than twenty years. It was full of successive corruption scandals at the federal level, which reached their apex with the so-called “Secret Budget”, resources distributed mainly to parliamentarians from the president’s allied base. Public machinery was intensively used illegally. Bolsonaro violated the Federal Constitution by proposing a package of electoral social benefits, such as financial aid to the poorest (Auxílio Brasil), a project incompatible with electoral norms. Authoritarian escalation and political violence were hallmarks of the Bolsonaro government and intensified during the campaign, especially after the second round.

It was a historic election. Lula won only by a difference of just over two million votes out of a total of more than 118 million voters who turned out to vote. Brazil came out more divided than ever: Lula won in the States and in the poorest classes; Bolsonaro had more votes in more economically developed areas and among the richest. The decision was centered on the economy, but also between democracy and organic fascism, rooted in Brazilian society. And, if Bolsonaro had been consecrated by the polls, we would have had the strengthening of an autocratic regime. But the lights are on: with a minority in the National Congress and Bolsonaro’s huge number of votes, the next four years will not be easy for Lula da Silva.

A historic choice to try to preserve the institutions and democracy in Brazil. But it will not be easy to rebuild what the extreme right destroyed: our democratic values ​​and institutions. Brazil has won a battle, but has not yet won the war against the radical right, which is entrenched in many hearts and institutions in the country.

Helcimara Telles She is president of the Brazilian Association of Electoral Pollsters (ABRAPEL), political scientist and professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

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The warning lights are still on in Brazil