The Decline and Fall of Brazil’s Political Establishment

Whether or Not Bolsonaro Wins the Presidency, a Transformation Is Underway

Protesters denouncing corrupttion march in front of the National Congress Palace in Brasília, March 2016.  WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This October, Brazilians will go to the polls to elect a new president, and the country could become the next democracy to fall in the populist wave that has been sweeping the globe. Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right nationalist member of Congress known for making racist and chauvinistic comments, is currently leading in many polls and may very well win a second-round runoff.

At first glance, it may seem strange that a country once hailed as one of the most inclusive democracies in the developing world could elect a president who has openly attacked the rights of gay people, women, and Afro-Brazilians and who has been an apologist for military dictatorship and torture. Yet Bolsonaro’s rise makes sense when one considers the backdrop of Brazil’s culture of political corruption. After watching politicians of nearly every mainstream party be caught in corruption scandals, Brazilian voters are willing to rebel against

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