Translation by Daniela Aires
A confined world
A new year has come. The evolution of technology, the issue of climate change, terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the Western world’s detachment from liberal democracy stimulated a climate of tension, insecurity, and fear, both for the present, but especially for the future.
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic around the world, which has so far led to the death of more than five million people and the infection of about three hundred million… In this crisis paradigm, many of the issues that I listed above have passed to the second stage at the media level.
However, they did not disappear. In fact, some were even exacerbated. 2020 and 2021 have known some of the most remarkable political phenomena of the millennium. Like the tumultuous presidential elections in the United States and the outbreak of Black Lives Matter manifestations around the world. The reality is that political power has been and is in constant contact with the fight against the pandemic in all its dimensions, both economically and in terms of public health.
The last two years have been highly distressing for humanity. In any corner of the world everyone has been affected in some way by this virus. Now that humanity prepares to turn the page on the pandemic and begin the process of human and economic recovery, the western world is about to reach a crossroads.
Three elections, two presidential and one legislative, will determine not only the political future of some of the main political actors in Europe and the Americas. But also, the continuity and functioning of international institutions such as the European Union itself and even the international order as we know it.
Presidential elections in Brazil
Before analyzing the 2022 presidential elections in Brazil, I think it is relevant to take stock of the first three years of the current Brazilian presidency and how these elections can deeply influence the future of the country.
Jair Bolsonaro was elected the 38th President of Brazil on October 28, 2018.
The former Brazilian military, candidate for the Social Liberal Party (“Partido Social Liberal”), had carried out a presidential candidacy that had appealed to the discontent of the Brazilian people with the increase in criminality, endemic corruption in the government sphere and the difficult economic situation of the country. Defended also (like his “distant cousin” Donald Trump) the country’s exit from the 2015 Paris Accords.
Large and vocal opposition movements to his candidacy were not enough to prevent his election. Since then, his presidency has been marked by major reforms in the areas of the economy, security, and health. As well as major controversies and political scandals.
Bolsonaro had started his term with surprisingly high approval ratings. According to the Ibote website, the Brazilian President had an approval level of 67% in January 2019. In September 2021, PoderData indicated that Bolsonaro’s approval level had plummeted to 29%, while 62% of respondents made a negative balance of the current presidency.
This climate of hostility of the population towards the President is largely due to his response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many world leaders at some point or another devaluated the effects of the pandemic. Few, however, maintained the completely fundamentalist and even denialist discourse regarding the pandemic itself. Bolsonaro at various moments devalued the pandemic, calling it a “little flu” or a passing thing, intrinsically refusing confinement measures or partially closing the national economy to contain the spread of the virus. Even after he contracted the virus in the summer of last year (having developed severe symptoms) his speech did not change, his posture did not moderate.
One of his most ridiculous statements came in December of last year, where he criticized the contract made for the acquisition of the Pfizer vaccine, saying that if the vaccine turned people into crocodiles or bearded women, the company would not have any responsibility.
By the end of October 2021 in Brazil, almost twenty-two million people had been infected with the virus and almost six hundred and eight thousand ended up dying from its effects, corresponding to one of the highest values in the world.
In the beginning of this year Lula da Silva signaled his intention to run against Bolsonaro in next year’s elections. Lula had been the Head of State of Brazil from 2003 to 2011. His government had as its milestones the introduction of various social programs, such as Bolsa Família and Fome Zero, both recognized by the United Nations as the programs that made it possible to the country to leave the hunger map. During his two mandates, he carried out several reforms and radical changes that produced social and economic transformations in Brazil, which tripled the country’s GDP per capita.
In 2017, the former President was sentenced to 9 years in prison for crimes of corruption and money laundering in the aftermath of the infamous “Operação Lava Jato”. After a very extensive and complex judicial process, which had great public and media attention, the former President was partially cleared of his charges in March 2021. At this time Lula da Silva signaled his intention to run for President again.
This election will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the country’s future. If Bolsonaro is re-elected, the country will continue its policy of hostility towards the international community, especially regarding to climate change issues and the fight against deforestation in the Amazon. Bolsonaro is also a critic of Mercosur and a fervent anti-communist. At the national level, his economic policies, despite having shown results in the first months of his term, have not been able to adapt to the pandemic. Lula has on his lapel the badge of being a former president, and despite having developed many antibodies in Brazilian society, his years in the executive are still remembered with some nostalgia. As an opponent to the full market economy, his presidency would probably imply an almost complete reversion of the current leader’s economic reforms. At the international level, Lula could promote a rapprochement with the international community, promoting Brazil’s greater commitment to environmental wars and effectively combating deforestation in the Amazon.
Until the beginning of 2022, most polls indicate that the (possible) candidate Lula da Silva has a comfortable advantage over the incumbent President. Although he remains a very controversial figure in Brazil, his election may be seen by many as a lesser evil. It only remains for us to closely follow how the respective electoral campaigns are going to speed up. One thing is certain, Brazil continues to be as politically polarized as always.
Midterms in the United States
Elections in the United States. This is a theme that, apparently, never, ever, leaves the media agenda. It has been just over a year since the intense presidential dispute that placed the unsuccessful candidate Donald Trump from the Republican Party fighting for the keys to the Oval Office against the candidate of the Democratic Party Joe Biden. Trump’s four years in office have been marked by a permanent guerrilla war with the media and with some of his key international allies. Trump’s four years in office were marked by an increasing polarisation in political discussion, not only in the United States, but in the Western world as a whole. His last year in office had also been characterised by turmoil in the fight against the pandemic, which made America one of the epicentres of the disease.
After a fierce internal dispute between the most leftist wing of the Democratic Party with the most moderate wing, Joe Biden emerged as the chosen one. As the only man capable of facing and defeating Trump in a head-to-head election.
The Americans voted on November 3rd. Joe Biden won and became the 46° president of the United States.
Biden presented himself to the American nation as a reformist, promising to rebuild the American economy one year after being suffocated (Build Back Together). Biden promised to heal the artificial and unnatural rifts that have grown up in the American people over the last few years – between Democrats and Republicans, between Rich and Poor, between the so-called Pure and the Unclean, etc. Biden said he would restore American international and military prestige after four years of frightening isolation.
With almost a year in office under his belt the Biden presidency has already shown signs of great concern and even humiliation – the disastrous withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, the inability of the American economy to return to full operation, the obstacles to vaccinations throughout the country and the first signs of an economic crisis with the dangerous increase in inflation and in the difficulties of supply chains. The President also had his victories, the biggest being the approval of a project to invest over a trillion dollars in infrastructure throughout the country over the next few years. A mega-project that required approval not only from the Democratic representation in Congress, but also from a substantial number of Republicans. This was no small feat considering that over the past few legislatures both parties have been entrenched and cooperation has been virtually non-existent.
With the 2022 legislative elections, Biden’s presidential term is at stake, even if he is not the one going to the polls. The loss of a stable majority in the main legislative body of the United States could make the entire legislative process by his administration from now on difficult, compromising the execution of the mega economic reconstruction projects and who knows, perhaps a Republican majority could veto any commission of enquiry to investigate the activities of its former head of state – including the involvement, or not, of President Donald Trump and the rest of his team in the attacks on Capitol Hill early last year.
The continuation of division, conflict and uncertainty in the most powerful democracy in the world may contribute not only to prolonging the economic recession curve, but also, in the worst case scenario, to accentuating it.
At this time all scenarios are open and it is impossible to make any kind of rigorous forecast. The future of the US will once again be placed in the hands of the American people.
Presidentials in France
The election of Emmanuel Macron in France 2017 has been a surprise to many. The election that “made Europe stop” had happened a few months after the extraordinary victory of Donald Trump in the States. Many anticipated that an equally surprising result could unwind in the country in that same year… Macron during that era was a relatively unknown figure in France and Europe. He had a not so notable political journey, but his speech during the whole electoral campaign made a strong appeal to French voters that wanted a strong center-right alternative. Never stopping to “wink” at the right-wing voters, but at the same time he promoted an economic development model that didn’t left anyone behind, garnering many votes from the left-wing. An alternative that didn’t review itself in the extremist speech of Marine Le Pen.
After two exciting rounds Macron had become the youngest leader in France’s recent history since Napoleon Bonaparte.
His first few months in office were marked by an unusual level of popularity and satisfaction by the French people. However the increase of terrorist attempts, the emerging of an economical and social crisis and the discontent over the Macron ‘s centered government took to the implosion of great manifestations in these last years . The enemies of the current President didn’t hesitate to reappear… however this time the French leader counts with new faces in the opposite field.
In the right-wing Le Pen encounters an opponent in a fight for the vote of the electorate that is discontent with the direction of the country and by the abstentionists. The journalist Eric Zemmour has managed to surprise everyone and no one at the same time by announcing his candidacy for the French presidency. In a video presentation, accompanied by Bethoven’s symphony number 7, he announced himself as the only candidate who could save France from national deterioration and the bureaucratisation of Brussels.
In any case, Zemmour’s candidacy will only serve to divide the vote of one section of the electorate, which will probably result in both extreme right-wing candidates being eliminated from the second round or even the presidency itself. The space is then open for Valérie Pécresse, candidate of the centre-right Les Republicans. Having discreetly won her party’s primaries Pécresse promises to contest the moderate vote with the incumbent Mácron.
In this elections, however, there’s more in the game than the presidency of a country, there’s the government and leadership of a continent. With the leaving of the German chancellor Angela Merkel after almost 20 years in power it opens a very alluring possibility to the French candidates: the possibility of assuming a position of an “informal” leader (and sometimes even formal) in Europe. Merkel throughout her terms in office set the pace in the response to the 2008 crisis, refugee policy and the European Union’s firm opposition to rising anti-democratic regimes within and beyond the EU’s borders.The continuation of Macron or the arrival to power of Pécresse will be positive for those who are mostly satisfied with the direction of Europe of recent years – a policy of open borders, the continuation of political and economic integration and the strengthening of the union’s institutions to promote the economic reconstruction of the continent. The coming to power of Zemmour or Le Pen would mark a complete reversal of cycle for Europe in deepening the European project, in immigration policies and in firmly opposing authoritarian attempts in Hungary and Poland.
However if we consider the polls this second scenario is, at this moment, very unlikely- the division of an electorate, that by itself isn’t majorly, only puts away the possibility of anyone reaching to the second round.
Macron’s personal and political project of European affirmation is being tested right now with presidency of his country in the Council of the European Union. A productive European presidency and a comfortable reelection could project the French leader to a position of international influence that his ancestors would never dream of.