Bolsonaro Is Following Trump’s Anti-Democracy Playbook

Published in the Foreign Policy

By Robert Muggah

At least one foreign leader still believes outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s desperate claims that the election was rigged. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was one of the last heads of state to grudgingly acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. But Bolsonaro remains adamant that the U.S. election was stolen and that Brazil’s presidential contest in 2022 could be too. While his latest assault on Brazil’s election system is controversial (and possibly criminal), it hardly comes as a surprise. Not only does he idolize the outgoing U.S. president, Bolsonaro is peddling similar false claims and conspiracy theories in Brazil.

Brazil’s young democracy is backsliding. Unless the country’s moderate leaders forge a united front to shore up their democratic institutions, Brazil risks an even more dangerous meltdown than the dramatic events in Washington last week. The conditions for democratic reversal are in place—a leader scornful of democracy and disdainful of civil society, a group of hardcore supporters committed to violently resisting his opponents, and an increasingly pliant security establishment. Making matters worse, Brazil has weaker checks and balances than many other democracies to keep it from falling off the brink.

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