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Brazil is a culturally and socially diverse nation which has as colourful a history as any other country on the planet. It is also in the midst of a highly significant election which could see all of its recent social and economic problems appear almost obsolete.
For the past 15 years Brazil has been led by left-wing leaders Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party. In this period, Brazil have welcomed the world on two occasions. It was the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Olympics two years later which sparked heated protests from the people arguing that their crippled economy was in no fit state to host major sports events. Multi-million dollar sportspeople shared cities with people in the deepest reaches of poverty was unjustifiable for many Brazilian citizens. These events, added to by economic decline and civil unrest have led many Brazilians looking to the right for their next leader.
Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party has exploded in popularity and won the first round of the electoral process on 8th October with almost 50% of the vote. The monumental swing towards the right is an alarming change in Brazilian political thinking. But who exactly is the man poised to be Brazil's new president?
Bolsonaro has a record of controversial and nationalist ideals. He has plans for a relaxation in gun ownership laws and has pledged tougher punishments for offenders, including reintroducing the death penalty. Misogyny, homophobia and an aggressive anti-abortion stance are also factors of the Bolsonaro ideology; making it clear why he has drawn comparisons with Donald Trump. He’s declared he will make Brazil great again, in the similar uncomfortable way as his North American counterpart.
In a further relation to President Trump, Bolsonaro has strongly resented the Paris Climate Agreement. He has made it clear he will remove Brazil from the agreement, organised in 2015, and has even claimed he will eradicate the role of Ministry of the Environment. He wants to promote Brazilian nationality and one of the ways he’s planning on doing this is by building within the Amazon, claiming Brazil has “too many protected areas that stand in the way of development.” In an area which is already being torn to pieces, the last thing it needs is for the new leader to stress the importance of destroying it even more.
People all around the world, Brazilian or not, have been warned by several environmental researchers, like Paulo Artaxo. His chillingly blunt account of his potential new President can only strengthen support for Bolsonaro’s rival. Artaxo, a climate change researcher at the University of Sao Paulo, had this to say, “there is no point sugar-coating it. Bolsonaro is the worst thing that could happen for the environment.”
Some Brazilian citizens have taken up a stance on the election which doesn’t bare well for the future of their nation. A BBC article suggested some have suggested they’ll be voting for ‘the least worst candidate’ out of Bolsonaro and his Workers Party counterpart for the October 28th head-to-head vote, Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro will be picking up votes from people who don’t want four more years of left wing rule, whereas Haddad will appear the more suitable candidate for a delicate democracy than a right-wing nationalist. The fragility of Brazil is set to yield consolation votes for both.
The democracy of Brazil is still relatively young, the military dictatorship was only ended 33 years ago. Despite the frustrations of the Brazilian people towards the left, a shift to the right could be more dangerous than many predict. Being placed in the hands of a right-wing nationalist is not what Brazil needs at this time. The election on 28th October may be a case of the Brazilian people voting for the ‘least worst’ candidate, but if they decide Bolsonaro is their man then the south American nation could be in for serious social and economic upheaval. The extent of any success or failures will be decided soon after.