Complications in the Defense of Democracy

Defense of Democracy
PT supporters in the 2018 election. The banner in the front says “Lula is arrested unfairly”. Photo by Ricardo Cifuentes.

Complications in the Defense of Democracy

The Brazilian elections disappointed many advocates for democracy in the world. Many polls showed Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) with a significant lead over Jair Bolsonaro. Some polls even predicted an outright victory in the first round. Lula did come close to a first round victory, however Bolsonaro outperformed his polls. So, even if Lula wins in the second round, many fear a close election outcome will fuel Bolsonaro’s false allegations of voter fraud.

Many view the Brazilian election as a contest between democracy and authoritarianism. Indeed, Bolsonaro poses a genuine threat to democracy and the rule of law. Not only does he govern as an authoritarian populist, but he regularly raises the possibility of an autogolpe or self-coup with the support of the military. For many it draws many parallels to the American elections in 2020 where Donald Trump made false allegations of voter fraud and attempted a self-coup on January 6th.

So, many observers believe Brazilian democracy truly depends on an electoral triumph from Lula. However, Lula raises some democratic concerns in his own candidacy as well. For starters he has already served two terms in a region where many countries limit the presidency to a single term. Moreover, Lula also suffers from allegations from corruption including a conviction that was later overturned.

It’s unfortunate the Worker’s Party did not have a fresh candidate to present to the voters. It’s reminiscent of the 2016 election in the United States when Hillary Clinton won the nomination for the Democrats. Her husband had already served two terms as president and also involved allegations of corruption. Nonetheless, the extraordinary concerns from their opponents overshadow their own shortcomings, however they do blunt the defense of democracy argument. In ways the Lula’s candidacy is a sign of desperation rather than democratic renewal.

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