Yes, a January 6 could happen in Brazil

Yes, a January 6 could happen in Brazil

The next elections are more than a year away, but Brazilians are already holding their breath: President Jair Bolsonaro will face off against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a very tight contest between two of the most popular and yet controversial political leaders in Brazil. Polls are giving Lula an edge today, mostly because of Bolsonaro's mismanagement of the pandemic, but a lot will change until October 2022, especially as a recovering economy makes Bolsonaro more competitive.

If Lula wins, coming back to power after spending almost two years in jail for alleged corruption, Brazil will take a dramatic policy shift in many areas, especially on the environmental agenda. But stakes are high not only because of that: with so much in play, Bolsonaro is threatening to contest the election results if he loses. We find out more from Silvio Cascione, Brazil director at Eurasia Group.

Why are people worried that Bolsonaro won't accept the 2022 election results?

Because Bolsonaro is making very clear threats. He said, for instance, that if congress does not change the constitution to introduce printed ballots, the elections may not happen. The supreme court has opened an investigation into him because of the threats, and then he replied on August 5 that his reaction could be "outside the constitutional limits." If there was any doubt that Bolsonaro is headed to contest next year's presidential elections, the past few weeks dispelled them.

Has this happened before in Brazil, and to what extent is there a Trump contagion effect at work?

Election fraud was a serious problem in Brazil before electronic voting was introduced in the 1990s. Before that happened, there were other moments in which some groups, like the military, contested election results. But there was no such a threat since democracy was restored in 1988. Trump's example certainly inspires Bolsonaro and his allies. To be sure, Bolsonaro has criticized electronic ballots for many years, even before he was elected president. But they saw how contesting the election results helped galvanize Trump's hardcore base late in his mandate, and he is trying to do the same in Brazil.

Is violence likely around elections? Or only if Bolsonaro loses?

Risk of violence is higher even during the campaign. The 2018 election was already remarkably violent. Bolsonaro was stabbed and Lula almost got shot during a campaign trip. With such high levels of polarization, candidates are already stepping up their security apparatus for 2022. After the vote, risk of violence is higher indeed if Bolsonaro loses and some of this base takes to the streets to contest the results. The leadership of the armed forces will not back him, but he has significant support within the rank and file of the state-based military police forces. Pockets of Bolsonaro supporters in the military police could promote acts of insubordination supporting claims of fraud. Episodes like the January 6 moment in the US could well happen.

What are the prospects of election reversal?

Despite all that, risks of election reversal are very small. Unlike the US, vote counting is quick, as well as any potential audits, and results do not need to be validated by states or by congress. Bolsonaro would remain as president for two months, but he would have no power in the transition period to reverse the results.

What are longer-term risks for Brazilian democracy?

When the president himself throws the electoral system into question, trust in democratic institutions becomes smaller. That is what created the conditions for an outsider like Bolsonaro to get elected in the first place. Now, in office, he is amplifying that distrust by leading a crusade against the electronic vote. If you have a third of the population believing the election was rigged, the government will face a more virulent opposition.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — is only a fallback option if talks fail badly.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two smaller parties agree on little beyond legalizing weed, and even when they do, diverge on how to reach common goals. So, where does each stand on what separates them?

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Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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