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?

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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