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THE BOLSONARO ERA BEGINS

THE BOLSONARO ERA BEGINS

Barring a shocking turn of events, voters in Brazil will elect Jair Bolsonaro president on Sunday. Press attention will focus on his charisma, provocative style, and an apparent ideological affinity with, if not imitation of, Donald Trump.


Bolsonaro has said many provocative things—about the military, crime-fighting, the left, women, and various minority groups. Like Trump, he’s made for the media, knows his crowd, and has attracted both intensely loyal supporters and loud critics.

But whatever the scale of his victory on Sunday, Bolsonaro will face a bewildering array of checks and balances on his plans for Brazil. Voters have made clear they want change, but a fiscal crisis and tight federal budget will leave Bolsonaro with little to spend on projects that might extend his presidential honeymoon.

He’ll also struggle to forge the alliances needed to pass legislation. 106 of 308 members of Brazil’s lower house of congress and eight of 54 senators are reliably aligned with the new president. He can cut deals with pragmatic members of both houses, but that won’t help his reputation as a political maverick. Brazil’s strong court system, which has brought down multiple former presidents and hundreds of other politicians and business leaders, will push back on any attempt Bolsonaro might make to move Brazil toward a more authoritarian political system.

Finally, Brazil, like many other countries in today’s world, is deeply polarized, and there are troubling stories from recent weeks that encourage Bolsonaro critics to claim the election wasn’t fair.

A tidal wave of disinformation has spread across social media channels, in particular via the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, which counts 120 million users in Brazil. Fact-checkers have uncovered tens of thousands of widely circulated images that contained false or misleading information about the leading candidates, including Bolsonaro. In response, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has shut down hundreds of thousands of accounts.

What’s more, a week before the presidential election first round on October 7, the daily Folha de Sao Paulo uncovered a conspiracy by pro-Bolsonaro businesses to spend millions of dollars on text message blasts supporting him. That’s a violation of Brazil’s strict campaign finance laws. Investigators are looking into whether Bolsonaro was directly involved.

In recent years, Brazil’s people have endured the worst economic and political crises of the country’s modern history. Violence has surged. Polarization is extreme. Just 18 percent of Brazilians trust their government.

After Sunday, Bolsonaro will face the monumental task of trying to restore faith in government. The task will be even tougher if millions of Brazilians doubt the legitimacy of his victory.

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Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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