Ok, I’ve composed myself. As I mentioned in my previous piece, I had planned to write on this topic yesterday. But needed extra time to collect my thoughts. I wrote last week before both the Irish and Brazilian presidential elections, and now we are in the aftermath. While the victors could not be more different, are there any parallels to be drawn?
Well, Ireland re-elected Michael D Higgins in a landslide. No issues there. He is a fine representative of Ireland and has been an excellent president so far. But what issues were there with the election itself? Well, it was the lowest turnout ever for a presidential election, which is concerning. Only 44% of the electorate actually voted. When we look at other elections both here and around the world, things could be shaped an awful lot differently if everybody had made the effort. Here’s what the last US election would have looked like had ‘Did Not Vote” been a candidate.
It’s understandable that some people genuinely can’t make it to the poll because of illness or other emergencies. But that cannot account for the huge numbers who don’t vote. Many simply don’t bother. How hard can it be? Here, the polls were open for 15 hours. It only takes minutes, and the polling stations are within walking distance of the majority of the population. Laziness definitely plays a part. Many don’t realise that they have a duty to vote. We all know people who have zero interest in politics, other than to complain about ‘the politicians’. Well, whether or not you have an interest in politics, politics has an interest in you. The decisions made at polling stations, and thusly the decisions made in government affect everybody, whether people are engaged or not.
My understanding is that this time, many people didn’t bother because they assumed the result was a foregone conclusion. That sort of complacency could have led to disaster. Not to mention the fact that we also had a constitutional referendum on the same day. As a result, 21% of the actual voters chose Peter Casey as their number one pick. Polls the previous week, before Casey’s public racist remarks, had him at 1%. Now, polls can be inaccurate of course, but a jump of 20% is still remarkable. It would seem that many people, unwilling to vote for the incumbent, couldn’t choose between the other 5. However, once Casey publicly “said what many people were thinking” his support surged. So, 21% of our electorate, or at least those that bothered, support an open racist. At least we know where we stand. But maybe if the other 56% of the population had bothered to come out and vote, those votes would have been spread around more, and he wouldn’t have had such a high percentage of the vote.
Why is this significant? Well, it will now embolden other right-wing candidates to come out of the woodwork, at local and national level. And we know what happens when these populists get involved. People are easily manipulated to vote for the far right, through misinformation and manipulation. We’ve seen how online (and illegal) campaigns have influenced the vote in the UK, the US, and now Brazil.
Brazil. While our racist only got 21% of the vote, theirs, Jair Bolsonaro – The Thing*, got 55%. Brazil now has the most right-wing elected leader in the world. And he is far worse than what we have here. An vocal supporter of torture, murder, and driving political opponents out of the country, as well as being an openly racist, misogynist, and anti-gay admirer of the Brazilian military junta. How did he get elected? Well, he promised to wipe out corruption (lets see how that goes shall we?). Many of the ‘corruption’ charges levelled at the opposition are fabricated in any case. And he also promised to stamp down on crime. I’m sure he will. It’s easy to reduce crime stats by making murder legal, which he will do by legitimising militias and shoring up the police state.
So this is what got him elected. That and “he says things that many people don’t want to hear” – direct quote from one of his supporters interviewed on Channel 4 news last night. Reminds me of our dickhead Mr Casey.
What of the turnout? Well, voting is actually compulsory in Brazil (though this interesting study suggests that compulsory voting, with non-monetary penalties, actually favours the wealthy despite ostensibly narrowing the voting gap). Despite this, 31 million people didn’t vote. Furthermore, there were 11 million spoilt or blank votes. The Thing’s margin of victory was 11 million votes. Sigh.
I really hope he achieves nothing while in office, like he did when he was a congressman. But I thought that about the fucknut in the White House when he was elected too. Brazil are in for a bleak four years. And let’s hope it is only four. If The Thing gets his way, these democratic norms will be disassembled, and the era of dictatorship Brazil will return.
And even if he doesn’t achieve his goals, it is still worrying that almost 58 million people thought that electing him would be a good idea. Idiots, or genuine psychopaths? A combination of both I imagine.