The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The political scenario in Brazil has always been conturbed. But the situation has gotten especially tense in the past three years, when a man named Jair Bolsonaro arose from the shadows of the legislative power, promising wonders to the population — ending corruption was his key piece in the elections — and not fulfilling them. He is still in charge, but this scenario might change in 2022, when the country will go through its 34th presidential election.
The main characters in this election, until now, are Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (president from 2002 through 2010), and Bolsonaro, who will attempt reelection. Political scientist Jaqueline Resmini Hansen told Her Campus Casper Libero her insights on the next elections and possible paths that the country might face.
Context before Bolsonaro’s election
In 2010, Dilma Rousseff won the elections and became Brazil’s first woman president in history. She was from the same political party as Lula, “Partido dos Trabalhadores” (PT).
June 2013 was an important month in Brazilian politics. An entity named “Movimento Passe Livre” (Free Fare Movement) started popular protests advocating for free public transportation, which had been increased by a few cents in that year. The protest, however, started gathering more issues, such as high corruption and dissatisfaction with constructions for 2014’s World Cup, which were set in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite that, in the 2014 elections, Dilma won again. Her popularity was already at risk, though. Her second mandate was marked by a corruption scandal burst that took the name of “Lava Jato”, which investigated money wash cases in high office positions. Her acceptance decreased more and more every day until popular street demonstrations were called to pressure the ex-president towards an impeachment scenario — that was justified by stepover moves in which she broke budget laws. The ex-president was impeached in 2016 and a feeling of anti-partisanship against PT grew in the country.
Jaqueline Hansen defines the scenario in 2018 as “the perfect storm”: the protests of 2013 caused the fortification and organization of right parties — while left parties, historically, had a more concrete foundation —, and an “anti-politics” feeling grew in the population. Conservative movements also got stronger and that’s where Bolsonaro found his space. His campaign was based on conservative and anti-corruption speeches, besides flirting with militarization.
Even though Bolsonaro was involved in politics for decades, he had a “new politics” speech in his 2018 campaign (that means that he wanted to bring people from outside of the political world to rule government folds). Jaqueline explains that one of the reasons why he was elected even being a politician for a long time is that he was part of the legislative body, and people don’t use to pay attention and remember those politicians.
Other factors that helped elect him include the use of fake news and social media, as Trump did in the United States, and an episode that happened during campaign time, where a man stabbed him in the stomach. The candidate was hospitalized and didn’t participate in debates, but he was always in the media, and that was essential to his victory, alleged Jaqueline.
Before the elections, Bolsonaro was already known for problematic speeches and disrespecting minorities. However, after becoming president, his opinions started having a much bigger impact on the country. The absurdities can’t even fit in a text. During the pandemic, for example, he’s criticized safety measures, refused to buy vaccines, and said “I’m not a gravedigger” when questioned about the millions of deaths caused by coronavirus in Brazil, demonstrating that he didn’t care that the population was dying from the lack of his actions.
Regardless of the major impact that the pandemic had on his government, the political scientist believes that the speeches and absurdities are not the main reason why people might not vote for him next year. She explains that the population votes based on the immediate impact that things have on them, and, generally, that’s the economic and social scenario.
The unemployment rates increased a lot in Bolsonaro’s government: as reported by International Monetary Fund, Brazil now has the 14th highest unemployment rate in the world. One of his campaign promises was to recover the economy but that’s the opposite of what he’s done so far, and people’s lives are affected immediately by that, said Jaqueline, so his popularity has decreased.
Possibilities for 2022
The elections are still far away, but, In the specialist’s opinion, with the data we have today, it’s very hard that the scenario will be propitious for Bolsonaro’s reelection. According to vote intention surveys by Genial/Quaest, 21% of the population intends to vote for Bolsonaro, while 48% plan on voting on Lula, and 31% don’t know or are between other candidates.
Bolsonaro’s popularity has been decreasing fast and that position isn’t positive for him right now. He’s still got a loyal base of supporters, but that has also been diminishing. “Sometimes, it feels like that base is big because of the noise that they make, but researches shows that people aren’t happy with him. The disapproval rates are too high for a president”, told Jaqueline.
An important number for both main candidates, Lula and Bolsonaro, is the 31% that still haven’t decided their vote. Bolsonaro is trying to rebrand a cash transfer program called Bolsa Família, created by Lula in his government and recognized internationally. Since the program is very associated with PT, his big enemy, he wants to change the name of the program to “Auxílio Brasil”, but it will maintain its basic principles.
According to Jaqueline, one of the little progressiveness that Brazilians support vigorously is social welfare and income distribution. The problem is that there’s not enough money to do this new program that Bolsonaro wants because, in 2018, a spending ceiling was established for public expenses. “When spending ceilings are not reviewed frequently, social policies are strangled”, declared the political scientist. He’s analyzing the possibility of not following this spending ceiling, and, by getting that and Auxílio Brasil, his chances in 2022 increase.
The president also needs more alliances and governability to have chances in the next year, said Jaqueline. The type of voters that he’s looking for, majorly, is low-class citizens, which are also disputed by Lula. With that in mind, he’s been promising a “package of kindness”, such as lowering the prices of gas and diesel, tax reforms, and readjusting public workers’ salaries, but, considering his historic, there is a big chance that he’ll talk too much and do too little. It is still early to say what will happen, but, right now, Bolsonaro loses the election in every scenario.