These are some of the lessons from yesterday’s presidential election in Brasil (we prefer the Portuguese spelling).
First, the worst thing for a political party in power or political office holder to do is to raise the people’s expectations and hopes, and then to dash those hopes and disappoint those expectations later. Former President Lula da Silva had, thanks in part to a commodities boom in the early years of this century, raised the standard of living of many Brasilians. His protegé in the Workers’ Party and presidential successor, Dilma Rousseff, ran the economy into the ground in her six-year tenure before being impeached in 2016. Why should the voters in Brasil have selected the Workers’ Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, this time around? About 55 per cent of the voters said no to the failed economic policies of the leftist Workers’ Party yesterday.
Second, economic and security concerns are of greater importance and immediacy to voters than high sounding blather about “building a democracy”. Brasilians are tired of the economic morass their country is in. (Four years ago, Rousseff only won re-election narrowly as many voters rejected her at the time.) As well, with out of control murder rates in the mega cities (Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro), citizens are understandably concerned with personal security, and law and order in the streets. The Workers’ Party did not offer workable solutions in these areas. The newly elected president, Bolsonaro, did speak to these concerns during the campaign.
Third, in times of societal or national crisis, people will turn to a strong and decisive leader (even if later it can be seen that their perception subsequently proved to be incorrect). This does not necessarily mean that Brasil is seeking to return to the age of the caudillo (strong, macho, authoritarian leadership). But, such times of crisis require decisive and effective actions and policies. (We can opine here that Bolsonaro appears to be the alpha male and his opponent, Haddad, the beta male.)
Fourth, when a political party and its leaders are seen by most citizens as being corrupt, systemically corrupt, and inept, and that corruption and ineptitude has hurt the citizenry’s economic well-being, the citizens will reject that party and its leaders. Uniting “perpetual victim”, special interest groups in a politically correct coalition based on identity politics was not sufficient to bring the Workers’ Party to victory yesterday.
Haddad, the Workers’ Party candidate, rather than bleating about the need for “building democracy” in his concession speech, ought to simply accept the democratic result.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain who is old enough to remember the military dictatorship in Brasil which ended in 1985, has been wise to include military men and those with connections to the military in his circle of advisors (and he will likely include them in his presidential administration). By doing so, he has reduced the probability, remote to start with, that the military might enter the political domain via a possible coup in the future. As well, the military will support his policies even if these are seen to be authoritarian by his political opponents.
Brasil’s election result could well be a set-back for globalism, and a victory for nationalism. Bolsonaro is now being named with other nationalistic elected leaders (Matteo Salvini in Italy, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in The Philippines, and Donald Trump in the US, and possibly Vladimir Putin of Russia) as being obstacles to globalism, or centralized control of the world by the mega rich elites.
Most definitely, the election of Bolsonaro is a major set-back for the Left. Brasil is potentially a rich country as it possesses many natural resources. And, Brasil is a very large country in both population (human resources or human capital) and in land area (it ranks about 5th largest in both categories). Hopefully, the country can develop economically and thus produce economic opportunities for all its citizens. We hope such development and economic growth can be achieved without trashing the environment. Socially responsible and environmentally responsible development is possible. But, make no mistake, the Left has failed in country after country to deliver the economic goods that it promises. Brasil, the South American colossus, under Bolsonaro, has the potential to be a real game changer in Latin America.
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