As it became clear that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, also known as the “Trump of the Tropics,” would not be re-elected, concerns about the Brazilian’s Jan. 6 began to grow louder. How would a president who spread false allegations of election fraud and said he would only accept the election results if he won respond to an election loss to a well-known challenger?
Now we know the answer.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro did not admit defeat. Like Trump, Bolsonaro fed a legion of supporters who also disagreed with the election’s outcome with a daily dose of fake news on social media.
As it turned out, Brazil had its own version of January 6. Instead of an out-of-control mob storming Congress while the president watched, out-of-control mobs blocked roads and highways across the country while the president watched.
Brazil’s largest airport had to cancel several flights because people could not get through a roadblock manned by truck drivers. But while it took Trump a few hours to decide to tell protesters to “go home,” Bolsonaro didn’t bother to say anything in the roughly 48 hours after the election. When he finally arrived after two days of silence, he gave a brief two-minute speech in which he clearly disagreed with the election and did not mention the name of his opponent, Lula da Silva.
Why did Bolsonaro take so long to make the announcement? One possible reason is that he was waiting to see how the post-election protests would play out and what support he might have in challenging the election results. However, the protests did not gain a wider response, and no relevant media, religious, military or political personnel supported the protests.
The ever-pragmatic Brazilian political class quickly began thinking about survival strategies after the Bolsonaro era. The powerful president of the Chamber of Deputies, a staunch supporter of Bolsonaro, declared that “the will of the majority expressed in the polls is never in doubt” and opened talks with the newly elected president’s team to ensure. his position in the future Lula administration. Therefore, in the 48 hours after the election, Bolsonaro became increasingly isolated. When he finally decided to break his silence, he concluded that the best solution would be to consolidate his position as a political leader by thanking his supporters and declaring that now “the right has really appeared in our country.”
One lesson Americans can learn from the Brazilian election is that when faced with incumbent authoritarian presidents seeking re-election, vote counting speed matters. Using the nationalized electronic voting system that has been used for more than a quarter of a century, Brazilians could find out the election results hours after the polls closed. Before Bolsonaro could say a single word, world leaders with Biden had already congratulated his challenger; politicians who supported Bolsonaro had resigned themselves to defeat, and even his vice president, an army general, had begun discussing a transition. The speed at which it all happened left little room for maneuver. In the United States, on the other hand, it took several days for voters to know the results, giving Trump and his supporters enough time to make false claims of voter fraud and dispute the results when they were finally known.
As in the case of the United States, Brazil’s relatively young democracy will suffer the consequences of the behavior of a president who flouted the basic rules of political decency. Although everything might seem normal, as the newly elected president takes charge of the construction procedures, the social marks will remain.
Bolsonaro, like Trump, will no longer hold office, however Bolsonarismolike Trumpism, will remain a powerful political force for years to come.
The deterioration of the civic political culture that was at the heart of their appeal is already a reality, regardless of who heads the executive branch. And if Trump takes back the White House in 2024, which is far from impossible, his pupil in Brazil, a decade younger, will undoubtedly be watching.
Carlos Gustavo Poggio Teixeira is a professor of political science at Berea College in Kentucky. He received his Ph.D. in International Studies at Old Dominion University in Virginia as a Fulbright Scholar. He is the author of Brazil, the United States, and the South American Subsystem: Regional Politics and the Absent Empire, selected by Foreign Affairs magazine as one of the best international relations books of 2012.