The general election in Brazil is over and incumbent president Dilma Roussef has been re-elected by a whisker. But for those hoping the country might calm down after the vote, keep wishing. I fear that an unfortunate side effect of the nation’s recently renewed appetite for politics may be that we have our very own Tea Party-esque faction of conservatives to deal with.
Dislike toward Dilma’s Workers’ Party increased at an alarming rate during the election in the largest state in the nation, São Paulo, home to 44 million Brazilians. Centre-right candidate Aécio Neves won there by 64-36. But instead of finding support from a coherent centre-right voter group, some supporters have voiced extremely xenophobic comments on social media and have argued that there should be a wall built between the prosperous south and the more impoverished north, where Dilma won by a large margin.
They’ve failed to realise that Dilma could not have won with votes from the northeast. Even so, a recent protest managed to draw 2,500 people to the streets of Avenida Paulista, São Paulo’s biggest avenue, demanding the impeachment of Dilma. Some even asked for a return to the military dictatorship that savaged Brazil between 1964 and 1985.
Of course, the latter is highly unlikely to happen; I would even say it is almost impossible in today’s political climate. But these kinds of events should be a warning to future contenders that hysterical statements are not healthy for anyone of any political persuasion. In fact, I have a theory that Neves lost a few votes from more progressive members of the electorate thanks to them being put off by such events. And it’s not only a problem at grassroots level. Brazil’s biggest weekly, Veja, published an anti-Dilma cover just two days before the election that featured the testimony of a criminal saying that Dilma allegedly knew all about the scandals that have recently unfolded at Brazil’s national oil company.
But there have been battle lines drawn on many other fronts, too. In the middle classes, between the coxinhas (a term for the middle-class São Paulo residents, named after a shredded-chicken pastry popular in Brazil) and the so-called esquerda caviar (meaning “the caviar left”: a derogatory label given to left-voting middle-class people by their conservative counterparts), relationships have been broken and families have been arguing.
I feel that this level of polarisation and disagreement in my country is a new and rather strange thing but differences in opinion are healthy and are what make a democracy work. It just might work better if we can all express them politely.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24