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BRAZIL GOES TO THE POLLS

BRAZIL GOES TO THE POLLS

If you like drama, you’ve got to love politics in Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest democracy. One of the country’s two most popular politicians is in prison, and the other is recovering from a knife attack. This weekend, Brazil’s beleaguered voters will finally head to the polls.


It’s little wonder the country’s mood is sour. Since the triumphant days of 2009 when the famous Economist cover gave us the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue lifting off like a rocket, Brazilians have suffered through…

  • The worst recession in the country’s history
  • Brazil’s biggest-ever public corruption scandal
  • One of the world’s highest murder rates
  • Deepening public polarization
  • An underperforming national football team

In fact, it’s been five years since The Economist brought that statue back down in flames.

This Sunday, Brazil’s voters can vent their fury and elect new leaders. In a first round of presidential voting, they’ll choose among 13 candidates. Unless one of them gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two will meet in a second round on October 28. They will also elect 27 state governors, all 513 members of the lower house of congress, and two-thirds of the Senate.

The presidential frontrunner: Jair Bolsonaro has emerged as prime contender with a no-nonsense, law-and-order message. A former army captain with a former general as his vice-presidential running mate, Bolsonaro loves the military, hates the left, belittles women, and despises homosexuals. In an environment where crime and out-of-control entitlement spending trump other issues, Bolsonaro has built surprisingly broad appeal.

The likely challenger: His likeliest second-round opponent will be former Sao Paulo mayor and Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad, a man best known as last-minute stand-in for (the far more charismatic) former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now serving a 12-year sentence for corruption. Exacerbating that recognition problem, Lula introduced Haddad to voters just three weeks ago by writing on the Workers’ Party website that Haddad “will be Lula for millions of Brazilians.” If Haddad advances beyond Sunday’s first round, he’ll have another three weeks to show voters who he really is.

The other key question: Cynicism and apathy have become potentially potent forces in Brazil’s politics. One recent poll found that just 14 percent of Brazilians have faith in the integrity of their country’s elections. Another reported that 62 percent of young Brazilians would leave the country if they could.

Will this election increase confidence in Brazil that elections can bring positive change? Or will it further widen the country’s divides and feed new doubts?

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

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Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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