Pop­ulist au­to­crats are ris­ing around the world. Will Brazil be next?

The Star Malaysia - - World -

THE sweep­ing vic­tory of far-right for­mer army cap­tain Jair Bol­sonaro in last Sun­day’s first-round elec­tions in Brazil could veer Latin Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal map sharply to the right and be part of a grow­ing world­wide trend of pop­ulist au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers.

Bol­sonaro, who ad­mires Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, won first-round vot­ing with 46% of the vote, fol­lowed by left­ist Work­ers’Party can­di­date Fer­nando Had­dad with 29% and cen­ter-left hope­ful Ciro Gomes with 12%.

Al­though third-place Gomes has al­ready sug­gested he will vote for left­ist can­di­date Had­dad in the Oct 28 runoff, it will be an election for Bol­sonaro to lose. The right-wing can­di­date would have to make a huge mis­take to lose the sec­ond-round vote.

While Bol­sonaro re­sem­bles Trump, Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin, the Philip­pines’ Ro­drigo Duterte, Turkey’s Tayyip Er­do­gan, Hun­gary’s Vik­tor Or­ban and other pop­ulists for his of­ten out­ra­geous views – he has re­peat­edly made of­fen­sive com­ments about women, blacks and gays – some long-time Brazil watch­ers say he would not likely have the power to be­come an au­to­crat.

Un­like most au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers, Bol­sonaro would not have a ma­jor­ity in Congress or a loy­al­ist Supreme Court. While Bol­sonaro will have the sec­ond-largest con­gres­sional bloc af­ter the Work­ers’ Party, it will only hold 52 seats of the lower house’s 513 con­gres­sional seats.

And it would not be easy for Bol­sonaro to grad­u­ally grab ab­so­lute pow­ers. Brazil’s econ­omy is in a sham­bles, and pop­ulist lead­ers – from Er­do­gan to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez – have most of­ten been able to erode demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions an nd ac­cu­mu­late grow­ing powe ers in times of eco­nomic bo­nan­zas.

“He would most likely beb a weak leader,” says Peter Hakim, a vet­eran Brazil an­a­lyst with the In­terAmer­i­can Di­a­logue think tank in Wash­ing­ton DC.

“While Trump came with the Repub­li­can Party, y, and the Repub­li­can Party con­trolled Congress, Bol­sonaro comes with non ne of that.”

De­spite Bol­sonaro’s mor re than two decades in Congress, h he went al­most un­no­ticed the ere, and he has no man­age­rial l ex­pe­ri­ence. He ran his cam mpaign mainly aided by his childr ren, and through Face­book, Tw wit­ter and What­sapp.

But most Brazil ex­perts fear that Bol­sonaro would beco ome an au­to­crat be­cause, amon ng other things, Brazil does n not have a long his­tory of demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions. A lawand-or­der can­di­date in a coun­tryc whose pop­u­la­tion is de­spe er­ate for stronger mea­sures to curb b vi­o­lence could eas­ily give rise to a p pop­ulist au­to­crat, they say.

Only last year, al­most 64 4,000 peo­ple were mur­dered in Brazil. Not su ur­pris­ingly, Bol­sonaro’s key cam­paign prom­ise of giv­ing more flex­i­bil­ity to po­lice and se­cu­rity forces to shoot at crim­i­nals and drug deal­ers has been ap­plauded by much of the pop­u­la­tion.

About half of re­spon­dents in a March poll by Ibope agreed with the state­ment “A good thief is a dead thief.”

“Bol­sonaro de­spises democ­racy, at least the ver­sion that has been prac­ticed in Brazil over the past 30 years,” writes Brian Win­ter in Amer­i­cas Quar­terly magazine.

Win­ter cites the fact that Bol­sonaro, in the past, has called for Congress to be closed, said that Brazil’s mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship’s big­gest mis­take was “to tor­ture in­stead of kill,” and that if elected pres­i­dent he would “start a dic­ta­tor­ship right away.”

More re­cently, Bol­sonaro has vowed to stack the Supreme Court with sym­pa­thetic judges and has picked a re­cently re­tired gen­eral – who is al­soo nos­tal­gic of the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship – as his run­ning mate. De­spite Bol­son­naro’s lat­est claim that he woulld not seek to change the 1988 Con­sti­tu­tion, “There is simp­ply far more ev­i­dence that sug­gests Bol­sonaro, when faced with re­sis­tance, will iig­nore or tram­ple demo­cratic prac­tices and norms to get his way,” Win­ter says. Th­hat’s bad news.

In LLatin Amer­ica, right-wing au­toc­cratic regimes tend to pro­du­uce vi­o­lent counter-re­ac­tions and gen­ner­ate new crops of rad­i­cal left­ist llead­ers.

The ttragedy of Brazil’s Oct. 28 election iis that Bol­sonaro’s ri­val Had­dad is also run­ning on an au­thor­i­tar­ian plat­foorm. Had­dad may be a mod­er­ate wit­thin his Work­ers’ Party, but that party has run amok. It is call­ing for “so­cial con­trols over the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice” and is ledd by an ad­mirer of Maduro’s dic­ta­tor­ship in Veenezuela.

Let’s hope we’rre wrong, but it looks like – who­ever wins thhe runoff election – Brazil is headed to­ward a chaotic pop­ulist au­toc­racy. — Tri­bune Newss Ser­vice

— AP

Pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner: Bol­sonaro just missed out­right vic­tory in Sun­day’s vote and will face for­mer Sao Paulo Mayor Fer­nando Had­dad of the left­ist Work­ers’ Party in an Oct 28 runoff.

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