Brazil’s October 7 presidential election is rapidly approaching, and perhaps its most remarkable aspect is the utter lack of clarity about the likely outcome. The world’s fifth-most populous country is mired in so many sustained and entrenched crises — economic, political, judicial, cultural, and an endless corruption scandal — that all previous rules for understanding political dynamics seem obsolete. And for that reason, and several others, the dynamic of Brazil’s presidential race has international relevance: it illustrates the chaos and extremism that can ensue when a large sector of the population, for valid reasons, loses all faith in institutions of authority and in the political class.
(Igo Estrela/Getty Images)
Mixed into all of those crises is enduring anger, and growing regret, over the 2016 impeachment of the elected center-left President Dilma Rousseff, in favor of a center-right coalition that has proven to be criminally corrupt, led by an installed President Michel Temer (pictured, right), who
ordering bribes to silence witnesses yet was protected from investigation by the same Congress that impeached Dilma in the name of fighting corruption. Temer is now, far and away,
The head of the center-right party who was backed by the establishment in the 2014 election and almost beat Dilma, Sen. Aécio Neves, has since been caught receiving bribes and even suggesting violence against witnesses. Disgraced even within his own party, Neves is running for a seat in the lower House just to stay out of prison (federal lawmakers in Brazil are immune from criminal prosecution while in office), and recently launched that desperate campaign to a crowd of 20 people. Meanwhile, in a cruel irony, Dilma is running for the Senate seat Aécio was forced to vacate, and polls show her likely to win (provided her candidacy isn’t banned by the judiciary).
Add to all of that the bizarre fact that the clear poll leader — Lula, the country’s former two-term president — is virtually certain to have his candidacy judicially barred due to the fact that he’s currently in prison after a criminal corruption conviction: the result of a judicial process that even many of his critics who believe him to be corrupt regard as a highly flawed and politically motivated trial and appeal.