Brazil voters move rightwards in favor of law and order

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 30, 2018
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Jair Bolsonaro waves to his supporters as he leaves a polling station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Oct. 28, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Brazil's far-right president candidate Jair Bolsonaro has won a resounding election victory in a second-round run-off vote, reflecting the public desire for a strong stand on law and order.

Bolsonaro, known for his controversial "soundbites," won over 55 percent of the votes in what was a turbulent election. The ruling Worker's Party that ruled for 13 of the last 15 years slipped to around 44 percent amid public anger at its alleged corruption. 

Bolsonaro, an ex-army paratrooper and a long-term member of Congress, portrayed himself as a straight-talking outsider ready to deal with the crime and corruption problems plaguing the country. 

He is a controversial figure due to his comments on homosexuals and women, as well as his policies towards the Amazon rain forest and the role of free markets. Mostly, however, it was his comments about crime and Brazil's past that aroused the concern of liberal and human rights groups. 

Bolsonaro has vowed to eradicate crime in a country known as one of the most crime-ridden in Latin America. He has also praised Brazil's past military dictatorship as glorious. 

There are questions about how much he believes what he says, and how much he is just playing to the gallery; however, his statements have caught the attention of the international press. He was also stabbed during one campaign trip that further bolstered his campaign in the final run-up to the vote. 

Brazil's election is a continuation of the trend that is becoming increasingly prominent globally – a public craving for authority in the face of unchecked liberty. This includes the rise of strongmen leadership in Europe, and Americas, as well as in Asia, which is a sign of social discontent and not just a general economic downturn. 

Crime is a factor in almost all the scenarios. From Sweden, Germany to Philippines, and now Brazil, this is the biggest factor propelling to power politicians with a strong law and order platform. 

Brazil, for example, had at least 64,000 murders last year. It's impossible to even contemplate how serious that is. In what has been a pattern in politics now, liberal drugs and crime policies, has led to extreme lawlessness, which in turn leads to people trumpeting a return of order. 

Brazil is no exception to this rule, as most people surveyed said they would vote for any candidate who could bring back order to their lives. Bolsonaro, with his tough talk, took full advantage of the vacuum left by the failing ruling party. 

Second, research suggests Bolsonaro's win was heavily propelled by conservative women. Brazil is a deeply religious country. Women turned overwhelmingly to Bolsonaro, seeing him arguably as a candidate who would solve endemic corruption, as well as criminal violence, which has disproportionately affected them. 

Further, it was a backlash against the socially-liberal policies of feminism and LGBT rights. Brazil is a paradox with a large number of evangelical Christians as well as being one of the most liberal of countries in social policy. The evangelicals flocked to support Bolsonaro's socially conservative rhetoric. His open support for weapons for every citizen also appealed to people fed up with rampant gangsterism. 

Exceptions are interesting as rules prove there is nothing new under the sun. It's now become a rule in global politics that the last quarter century of socially liberal policies and rise of new LGBT and feminist ideas are unleashing a global backlash. 

Increasingly, it is evident people everywhere are voting for anyone, whether left or right wing, ready to bring back order. In Italy, it was a leftist party; in Sweden, Brazil and Germany was the right. Fundamentally, people crave law and order and peace, and those who are promising to bring that about are going on to win elections. 

However, one cannot imagine which direction Brazil will take, whether it will see a massive crackdown like Philippines, or more mellow politics like Europe; yet, this is an important lesson for policy makers to remember, that anyone who neglects law and order, stands a chance of losing political power.  

Sumantra Maitra is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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