Bolsonaro Pushes Brazenly False Claims of Election Fraud After First Round Loss

Brazil’s presidential election will go to a runoff later this month, as no candidate was able to secure the endorsement of a majority of voters in the first round of voting.

Former leftist President Luiz In​​ácio Lula da Silva, commonly referred to as “Lula” by Brazilians, attained around 48.4 percent of the votes on Sunday, according to figures from Reuters. His opponent, far right incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, obtained 43.3 percent.

The second round of the election will take place on October 30.

Preelection polling had previously suggested that da Silva was on track to winning the election outright on Sunday, with some polls showing him ahead of Bolsonaro by as many as 14 points.

“It seems that fate wants me to work a little harder,” da Silva said in a post-election speech on Sunday night.

Analysts following the election developments in Brazil still believe that da Silva has the best chance to win in the head-to-head contest later this month.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro has been pushing baseless lies about the integrity of the election for months, wrongly stating that voting machines in the country cannot be trusted to deliver a true outcome. On Sunday, after polling lower than da Silva in the election’s first round, Bolsonaro claimed without evidence that election administrators had rigged the outcome.

“They took sides. They have a candidate for president,” Bolsonaro said. “Or at least there’s one they don’t want, which is me.”

Bolsonaro’s claims have raised worries that he may attempt a coup, or at the very least incite political violence akin to the violence that followed Donald Trump’s loss in 2020, when a mob of the former president’s loyalists attacked the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s win.

Some experts have said it’s unlikely there will be a coup attempt in Brazil, much less a successful one. But the country may still see political violence as a result of the election, especially if the far right leader, who has been an apologist for dictatorial regimes in Brazil’s past, refuses to accept the results in the event that he loses.

“We are not suggesting that Bolsonaro would lead a traditional coup, with tanks rolling down the street, as happened in 1964,” Erika Robb Larkins, associate professor of anthropology at San Diego State University, and Lucas Louback, a human rights activist, wrote in a joint op-ed for Al Jazeera in September. “But we see major threats to democracy and possibly insurrection if, as expected, Bolsonaro loses at the polls.”

Noam Chomsky — historical essayist, social critic and institute professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT — recently discussed the possibility of a Bolsonaro-attempted coup.

In an interview with Democracy Now! on Monday, Chomsky noted that there is a stark and purposeful similarity between the current Brazilian president and the ex-U.S. commander in chief.

“Trump is his ideal. And there’s good reason to suppose that Trump’s circle of advisers is playing a role in Bolsonaro’s current decision making, as they pretty clearly did in the 2018 election,” Chomsky said, adding:

What [Bolsonaro will] do, we don’t know. Now, a large majority of the population in Brazil, according to the polls, is concerned, seriously concerned, that there might be violence at the time of the elections or in the aftermath. To this concern, there’s reason for it.

Armed supporters of the incumbent president have already violently confronted their opponents and members of the media, with some of these attacks proving to be fatal, according to a TIME report last month.

In early September, for example, a worker was stabbed and killed after having a political discussion with a Bolsonaro supporter. And earlier this year, “an armed bolsonarista invaded a children’s birthday party and executed the child’s father in front of his entire family,” the publication reported.

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