Thursday, October 6, 2022

Uneventful Brazil polls silence critics


Despite dire predictions, Brazil’s first round of elections proceeded smoothly and concluded without hitches. The country’s election system proved to be up to scratch as it was able to count over 100 million votes by midnight, enabling poll authorities to publish results online without delay.

A mission formed by observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) has released a report lauding the “orderly and normal manner” of the vote.

“The mission salutes the people of Brazil, who turned out to vote yesterday, Sunday, to express their will in a peaceful and democratic manner. Under a highly tense and polarized atmosphere, Brazilian citizens showed maturity and civic commitment,” the report said.

Similarly, markets were upbeat about first-round results. In a note to investors, J.P. Morgan sounded guardedly optimistic about the polls.

"The risks around political polarization, with non-acceptance of the ballot results must be monitored, but so far there have been no notable events to report," it said.

The undramatic polls contrast markedly with the gloom and doom scenario being painted by incumbent president Bolsonaro during the run-up. It might be recalled that Bolsonaro went after the election system hammer and tongs, relentlessly questioning its credibility, and warning of widespread unrest should he lose.

Analysts had feared that Bolsonaro’s polemics was a dangerous tactic to hold on to power, as the incumbent had trailed his rival, ex-president Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, in all pre-election surveys. Yet Bolsonaro mustered 43.2% of the votes to Lula’s 48.4%, an impressive showing for the perceived underdog. Under Brazil’s election laws, if no candidate gets 50% of the vote in the first round of voting, a runoff election between the highest scoring candidates will be held.

Analysts note that the stronger-than-expected showing of Bolsonaro had seemingly silenced his rhetoric against the voting system. With the prophesied anomalies turning out to be duds, the whole narrative appeared to have been defanged.

Bolsonaro’s sudden silence on the matter is likely to be taken by the public as a walk back and an acknowledgement that the election system he had been denouncing in fact works. This tacit retraction could prove crucial to the country’s post-election stability as Da Silva, despite failing to score an outright win, still pulled 6,000,000 more votes than Bolsonaro, and enjoys an advantage going into the taut mano-a-mano matchup set on Oct. 30.