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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 4, January 14, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 14, 2023

Saturday 14 January 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 14, 2023

Attacking Democracy Fashionable, After Assaults in Washington and Brasila, Where next?

The Presidential elections in Brazil of October 2, 2022 were very hotly contested. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a leading figure on the Left, did finally win the election getting 50.90 percent of the vote and the losing candidate, the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro representing the Far-Right camp getting a little over 49 percent. Both candidates had been voted for by millions. Bolsonaro supporters who have long been fed fake news did not accept election defeat blamed it on faulty election process and the electronic voting machines. As we had approached the Oct 2022 Presidential election, there had been a warning from many sections of society in Mid 2022 [1] that all was not well and there could be coup in Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro who had become President of Brazil in 2018 and done much in the years that followed to divide Brazilians and whip up an anti-democratic sentiment in society —Bolsonaro has long defended the brutal dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985). It is this underlying sentiment that triggered thousands of Bolsonaro supporters to march to the country’s capital Brasilia and engage in a violent takeover and rampage [2] of the Brazilian Parliament, and the Supreme Court for several hours on January 8, 2023 until the Brazil police managed to restore order. At the same time, hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters had been camping outside military cantonments asking for a Military takeover in Brazil. This violent riot and coup attempt in Brazil was a near replica of the now famous January 6, 2021 assault in the USA on the Capitol building in Washington DC by a right-wing mob of supporters of Ronald Trump who had just been defeated in the American Presidential Elections. The active relations between advisers of Donald Trump and the entourage of the deposed president, Jair Bolsonaro, strengthen suspicions about what went on behind the scenes. A full inquiry will reveal more and punishment of some of those who were behind the attack is a necessity to protect democracy. Countries across the world including the Modi government came out in condemning the assault on democracy in Brazil. There were also mass demonstrations by trade unions and citizens movements in different parts of Brazil in support of the Lula presidency and severe condemnation of the ‘rioters’. It is very clear however that the path ahead for the new Lula presidency will not be smooth. Opposition parties including Bolsonaro supporters have majority control in the Brazilian parliament. And Bolsonaristas who are nurtured daily with hateful propaganda via social networks are not going away, and there are concerns over the loyalties of the police and military. The big question for President Lula is how to govern in a society living through sharp polarisation and divisions. Societies across the world are facing similar challenges —creating common grounds, to counter divisiveness is the challenge for democrats everywhere but there are no textbook answers.

January 14, 2023 - HK

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