Much like the US, Brazil has presidential elections every four years, and 2018 Brazilian elections held on October 7th saw the start of Brazil’s presidential and congressional elections.
From the start of the elections, until the final votes and results were revealed on October 28th, tension ran high as Brazilians, and other onlookers anticipated the future of Brazil.
But what were the elections all about, who won, and what does it all mean for Brazil, Latin America and the rest of the world? Here’s everything you need to know about the 2018 Brazilian elections.
What were the 2018 Brazilian elections all about?
The 2018 Brazilian elections were shrouded in controversy as the Brazilian people were divided by a desire for change and fear of extremism. Tension has been running high in Brazil, thanks to record-breaking amounts of corruption amongst politicians and authorities, and out-of-control street violence.
For many, the elections weren’t just about deciding between one presidential candidate and another, they were about making a statement, and sparking real change.
Brazil has been governed by left-wing parties and politicians for over a decade, with parties like the Brazilian Workers Party promising social change for the working class. While great change has been achieved in terms of poverty and inequality, too much went unnoticed – until recently that is.
Despite Brazil now having much lower poverty and inequality levels, and a higher GDP than in the year 2000, the various left-wing governments over the years have allowed street violence to go ignored. And with each year that Brazil has ignored and tolerated street violence, the streets have become more dangerous.
Corruption has also been an enormous issue in Brazil over the last twenty years or so. Two former presidents, Luis Inácio Lula, and Dilma Rousseff have recently been found guilty of corruption. Rousseff was impeached in 2015, and Lula is now serving 12 years in jail for corruption.
For many Brazilians, this election was a chance to instill some discipline, to elect a government who would bring an end to street violence and political corruption. So in many ways, the Brazilian election was about the people regaining trust. Trust that people can walk through the streets of Brazil without the threat of danger, and trust in the government to deliver on promises and put the country first.
Who won the Brazilian elections and why?
The elections came down to two candidates: former San Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad (a left wing, Workers Party candidate) and Jair Bolsonaro from the social liberal party (a right-wing conservative party). On October 28th, Jair Bolsonaro won with over 50% of the votes.
While Jair Bolsonaro is a right-wing politician, and he also captured the attention and the votes of the majority of the electorate. He even won over many of the north-eastern votes, which was particularly surprising considering that, as one of the country’s poorest regions, the northeast is usually one of the most supportive regions for the left wing Workers Party.
So why, after so many years of putting their faith into left-wing governments, have the majority of Brazil turned to the right?
To put it simply, because discontent was running high, and when people want to be heard and spark real change, they turn to parties, policies, and politicians who signify dramatic, and often extreme change. Levels of discontent had been running high in Brazil for several years before this election thanks to the poor economic situation, and the high levels of political corruption, but Bolsonaro played on this discontent and promised what the majority wanted: real, radical change.
We’ve seen similar political shifts in countries all over the world, as people are turning to the far right in the hope of causing change, and making a statement. The US has elected Trump to ‘make America great again,’ Britain has begun Brexit: the process of leaving the EU in the hope of becoming more independent and powerful, Turkey have elected far-right President Edrogan – there are countless examples of the global political shift.
Bolsonaro has been compared to Trump several times throughout his candidacy, even being referred to as the ‘Trump of the Tropics’, thanks to his controversial views about women, homosexuality, and ethnic minorities.
However, even those he refers to as ‘leftists’ have been won over by his speeches and rhetoric promising change. The Brazilian people’s willingness to accept, or overlook Bolsonaro’s extreme views shows how desperate the country is for real change and a political overhaul.
What do the election results mean for Brazil?
It might be early days for Bolsonaro, but throughout his campaigns he created an emotional response, playing to the people’s desire for immediate change, which means people will be looking for immediate results.
There are several issues for Bolsonaro to address if he’s to live up to his promises. Crime and corruption are two very big issues that need tending to, but they’re not the only ones. Taxes, pensions, and health care also need attention.
With Bolsonaro being a technically ‘untrained’ politician, Brazil awaits his actions anxiously, because the next few months and years could go one of two ways.
If Bolsonaro delivers on his promises and policies before long Brazil will have undergone some drastic changes. However, if he fails to deliver the new Brazil so many are hoping for, even more, doubt and mistrust in the democratic system may arise.
Bolsonoro plans to target street violence by boosting police and military funding, introducing chemical castration for rapists, and easing gun laws so that people have the ability to defend themselves.
As for the economy, while he has promised to ensure economic growth with low inflation, he hasn’t outlined exactly how. However, he has stated that the Amazon will be used as a source of Brazil’s riches. This claim is one that has environmentalists worried with Bolsonaro’s plans to use Indigenous reserves for farming and mining, but one that economists agree could increase Brazil’s GDP.
Many ethnic minorities and LGBT Brazilians are worried about what the future will hold, and whether his homophobic attitude will encourage hate crimes.
What do the Brazilian elections mean for the rest of the world?
For the rest of the world, the results of the Brazilian elections signify another country contributing to the worldwide shift to the right. Another discontent population looking for answers and change.
On an international relations note, Brazil has lost its global voice over the last few years, but now Latin America’s largest economy looks as though it is about to make a comeback. With Bolsonaro’s strong character, the rest of the world will no doubt hear Brazil’s voice once again when international matters arise.