Two possibilities for Brazil

No peaceful transition in either case

There are currently conflicting rumors regarding President Bolsonaro of Brazil. Some sources say he has left on a plane to Florida together with several military allies, while his wife decided to stay in Brazil. Others that he’ll leave in a few days. Either way, it is to ensure he leaves before he loses presidential immunity. Yet, according to other sources, his family (except his politician sons) left for Florida while he stayed behind.

This means there are two options, either a (counter)coup isn’t happening (right now) and Bolsonaro has gone or will go into exile, or he is still in Brazil and war could break loose any second now that he has ensured the safety of his vulnerable family members.

Brazilians are currently waiting to see what happens. One twitter poster said they’d see the fate of their country in the next few hours. Others believe a (counter)coup will occur on the day of Lula’s inauguration. The Riotimes has been suggesting a coup may very well still happen any moment.

But even if it doesn’t happen now, Bolsonaro has likely retreated more than fled the fight permanently. Leaders in exile are usually a threat, especially when several officers accompany them and the successor is an extremist with much of the army against him. If a coup doesn’t happen now and Lula assumes office, opposition in the army remains a ticking time bomb.

Bolsonaro indicated that the armed forces will serve as the last line of defense against Socialism. He has still not conceded defeat. He apparently won’t even symbolically give Lula the presidential sash. Bolsonaro remains a hero to his followers and a symbol of opposition to Lula while Lula’s legitimacy is highly contested.

How likely is it really that Lula will rule as president largely peacefully for the next 4 years? The Marxist president in Peru was able to assume office in spite of attempts to obstruct this from the Right, but he is in jail now. Many tried to prevent Salvador Allende from assuming office in Chile in 1970. They failed, but a coup eventually happened. Will Lula be able to pacify the situation?

Instead of acting like a moderate social democrat, Lula has surrounded himself with extremists, openly supported the Socialist dictator of Venezuela and nominated a minister of defense hostile to the armed forces.

If Bolsonaro really fled pre-emptively, this suggests that the totalitarian threat of Lula and the supreme judicial authorities allied with him is rather severe. Lula’s team has already indicated they plan to brand those who deny the validity of Lula’s disputed election as terrorists.

Branding those who question election results as terrorists or a threat to democracy, is itself a threat to democracy. Election fraud takes place in democracies sometimes. It is important to develop a system that prevents or corrects this as much as possible. That voter fraud (barely) occurs should be so extremely self-evident that those who deny the validity of the election results are as rare and have as little credibility as flat earthers.

The 3 ingredients to prevent accusations off voter fraud are:

  • Transparent voting and vote counting method where the losers off elections can easily request relevant information to rule out foul play
  • Transparent appointing system for independent electoral commissions and those in charge of conducting elections
  • An independent court where challenges disputing the election can be dealt with quickly yet thoroughly and transparently before elections are verified

But in Brazil the judiciary is highly politicized. Lula’s conviction was overturned by a Supreme Federal Court with many justices nominated by him. This same court is linked to the superior electoral court that (legally) validated his election win. Finally justices from this court have been threatening and arresting those protesting Lula’s alleged victory, including members of congress who have immunity, native leaders who possess constitutional protection and even comedians who are challenging the tyranny in international court.

Two vacancies will appear on the Supreme Federal Court next year. If Lula appoints two more extremists before he is ousted, this could cause problems for several decades to come.

If the Right has any sense, they’ll use their strong presence in the senate (which they recently enlarged during the elections) to force Lula to nominate center-rightists far removed from his party line, or they should pull a Garland and keep the seats open indefinitely as a statement against the politicized and tyrannical court.

The senate in Brazil has almost never rejected presidential candidates for the Supreme Federal Court. But with the exceptional level of polarization, the judiciary’s enabling of Lula’s corruption, an unusually opposition controlled senate, and the supreme court having gotten more political than ever before, it might be time for the senate to serve as a check on presidential nominations.

Btw, I once again propose that the Brazilian constitution be amended so that Supreme Federal Court nominations require approval from 2/3 of the senate and not a mere absolute majority. Maybe also add an absolute two term limit for the presidency instead of merely a ban on a third consecutive term.

Ramon Giralt

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