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?

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

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Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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