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Brazil Faces ‘Moment of Truth’ With Upcoming Election

Will Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro turn to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s playbook if he loses his reelection bid?

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cheer.
Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cheer.
Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cheer during the 45th Expointer agricultural fair at Assis Brazil State Park in Esteio, Brazil, on Sept. 2. SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Brazil’s looming election, Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, and Paraguay and Taiwan’s shaky alliance.

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Brazil Braces for High-Stakes Vote 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Brazil’s looming election, Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, and Paraguay and Taiwan’s shaky alliance.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Brazil Braces for High-Stakes Vote 

As Brazil’s presidential election looms, there are widespread fears that current President Jair Bolsonaro will borrow tactics from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s playbook in the likely event that he loses his reelection bid.

His main challenger—and the favorite to win—is former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, a leftist leader who has maintained a steady lead in the polls. As Lula’s popularity grew, Bolsonaro appeared to lay the groundwork to contest an unfavorable outcome by questioning voting machines, engaging the military, and making unfounded claims that government workers could “manipulate election results.”

Brazil is facing “the moment of truth” over how Bolsonaro voters respond to the outcome of the election, said Oliver Stuenkel, an associate professor of international relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo.

“The big question is whether this election is a moment of turning the page or if it’s a traumatizing event which will lead Brazil to continue the downward spiral it’s on right now,” he added. 

Brazilians will head to the polls on Sunday for the first round of voting, where they have their choice of 11 candidates—though polling suggests that 8 out of 10 Brazilians will back either Lula or Bolsonaro. If nobody receives at least 50 percent of the vote on Sunday, the two politicians will head to a runoff election on Oct. 30. 

When Lula’s presidency ended over a decade ago, he had close to a 90 percent approval rating and Brazil had lower poverty rates. He was later mired in a corruption scandal that left him facing a 12-year prison sentence.

After a year and a half behind bars, his conviction was overturned on procedural grounds—amid reports of judicial bias and prosecutorial misconduct as well as a Supreme Federal Court finding that the initial prosecution had been motivated by political animus—paving the way for his potential return to power now. 

As Lula took a commanding lead in the polls, Bolsonaro urged his supporters to prepare to take radical action in the event of an election loss. “There’s a new type of thief, the ones who want to steal our liberty,” he said in June, adding that “if necessary, we will go to war.” 

In recent months, violence has gripped Brazil while gun ownership has also surged. This year, Brazil’s Observatory of Political and Electoral Violence has recorded more than 200 instances of politically driven violence. More than two-thirds of Brazilians said they are afraid of facing attacks over political differences, according to the polling organization Datafolha. 

This rise in violence as well as Bolsonaro’s efforts to cast doubt on the country’s electoral systems has further fueled uncertainty over what could happen after the election. 

“If Bolsonaro loses and leaves power … democracy will essentially survive,” Stuenkel said. “But if he wins, I would be very pessimistic about the future of Brazil’s democracy.”


What We’re Following Today

Russia’s annexation plans. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold a signing ceremony today to annex four partially occupied Ukrainian territories: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. Their Russian-installed leaders had previously held sham referendums to join Russia despite global criticism and their illegality under international law.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the move as a “dangerous escalation” that “would have no legal value.” The annexations come as at least 200,000 people flee Russia in reaction to Putin’s partial mobilization order. 

Shaky Paraguay-Taiwan ties. Paraguay has appealed to Taiwan for $1 billion worth of investments to help it withstand financial pressure to shift its alliance to China, the Financial Times reported. Only 14 nations—including Paraguay—have established formal ties with Taipei rather than Beijing.

“That will help us to build the argument about the importance of this strategic alliance with Taiwan,” Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez told the Financial Times.


Keep an Eye On

The cost of Pakistan’s floods. Nearly 3 million children across Pakistan may be forced to forgo a semester of school because their schools were destroyed by months of extreme flooding, authorities told The Associated Press. In one of the country’s most hard-hit regions, the deluge has impacted 15,000 schools. 

North Korea’s missile tests. North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to South Korea and the Demilitarized Zone. Pyongyang had also launched missiles before her departure for the trip and during her visit to Japan this week.


Thursday’s Most Read

Russia’s Stripped Its Western Borders to Feed the Fight in Ukraine by Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch

Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem by Stephen M. Walt

Liz Truss Wants to Be Thatcher. She’s Not. by Garvan Walshe


Odds and Ends 

A cow herd in Germany has adopted a lost wild boar piglet after it became separated from its group. The piglet, which was nicknamed Frieda, will stay in the same shed as the herd’s mother cows during the winter, local farmer Friedrich Stapel told the dpa news agency. 

“To leave it alone now would be unfair,” he said. 

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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