Brazil’s presidential election is been marred by an unprecedented situation of violence and tension. As the October. 2 election approaches attacks and harassment have gotten more intense. violence has gotten more intense and even non-violent players like polling institutions becoming target organizations.
The president of the far right Jair Bolsonaro, who aims to win reelection, however, is currently at the bottom of the polls that are dominated by leftwing Former President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. The battle between these two wildly different popular names has split the country, with experts stating that the intensity of public anger differs this time around.
“The current polarization this year isn’t only a political polarization” claims Felipe Nunes, CEO of Quaest Research Institute, which conducts polls in Brazil.
“This year, we’re witnessing an affective polarization, where various political parties view each other as adversaries and not as rivals.”
Some of the researchers from his group were hounded by police during polling in the past year. Nunes added.
Another well-known research institution, Datafolha said that one of its researchers’ lives was threatened after they refused to speak with the self-described Bolsonaro fan in Ariranha on the outskirts of the city of Sao Paulo.
The irritated person accused the researcher of being biased and claimed that he was conducting interviews with “Lula’s supporters” and “tramps”. The man then beat and threatened him with a knife according to Datafolha who submitted a police report.
“One of the guidelines for polling is to not question anyone who is offering himself. It must be random to ensure statistical accuracy,” said Jean Estevao de Souza who is an election researcher project coordinator at Datafolha in a statement to the news update daily.
“The most frequent instances (of attacks) involve people who give themselves up and, when the researcher states that he can’t be interviewed due to that scenario and the subject begins filming, slamming and cursing.”
According to Datafolha 42 other instances of violence and harassment against employees of the company have been reported as of September 7 this year.
Bolsonaro is accused of fueling the fire.
Although violence has been viewed in both the left and right political spectrum, critics have accused Bolsonaro of deliberately creating discontent and anger among the supporters of his Brazilian elections. As his performance deteriorates in polls, his ire is directed at research groups such as Datafolha.
Datafolha has been repeatedly mentioned and the reliability of its polls challenged by Bolsonaro. In his speech in Brasilia in celebration of Brazil’s 200th Independence Anniversary on September 7, Bolsonaro discredited Datafolha projections as a regular topic in his speeches.
“I’ve never witnessed such a huge ocean here, with these beautiful hues of yellow and green. There’s no lie about Datafolha there,” he said. “Here lies the whole truth. here’s the will of an honest hardworking, free, and free group of people.”
In a rally in September. 23rd, Bolsonaro did not change his tone in an address for his followers at Divinopolis, Minas Gerais state. “We have the largest majority. We’ll win at the beginning of the election. There’s no way to win an election with no people on the streets. There isn’t a single candidate taking part in an event that is closer to 10 percent of the population here,” he said.
Recent polls have revealed Lula outshining Bolsonaro in recent weeks.
Politicians’ efforts to undermine polling institutions are not new in Brazil according to Datafolha’s Estevao de Souza. “But we have never been subjected to threats and harassment against researchers in the streets up until the present year.”
“The campaign of admonishment against the institutions by the president’s campaign that attempts to undermine the results of polls is circulating among the most radical supporters and manifests on street life,” he said.
The verbal squabble between the two major candidates — which is not unusual in Brazil — has created a toxic environment as Bolsonaro frequently declares Lula the “thief,” and Lula recently declares Bolsonaro as a “wrongful.
In light of the heated national debate, Some Brazilian voters have decided to avoid discussing their political preferences publicly, as per a Quaest survey.
“We have recently asked people if they think it’s riskier to voice their views or who they’d like to cast their vote. About 88% of the respondents said that it’s safer to speak about politics now than it was earlier in time,” continued Nunes.
“Repeat to me: I vow to sacrifice my life in order to achieve freedom’
Attacks on researchers who conduct polls are but one of the many examples of the political violence that is evident within Brazil as the nation gets ready for the elections.
In the acceptance speech of his party’s nomination for reelection on the 23rd of July, the Brazilian president urged his supporters to lay down their life “for the cause of freedom.”
“Repeat with me I pledge to sacrifice my life to freedom. And again,” said Bolsonaro to the crowd of people who reiterated his words.
There have been many fights with Bolsonaro as well as Lula supporters – with the most famous incident being the killing of Workers Party member Marcelo Arruda on the 9th of July by Bolsonaro supporters Jose da Rocha Guaranho, who was later indicted for aggravated murder.
Guarana who was wounded and later hospitalized has claimed that he does not recall the events that took place.
The high-profile events have created fear among prospective voters. They may deter some from voting in the first place. On-street corners of Sao Paolo’s iconic Paulista avenue, the voters who were interviewed by news update daily expressed their displeasure at the tense atmosphere surrounding the upcoming elections.
“There is a lot of tension, it’s nearly becoming the war. It’s like Lula or Bolsonaro are similar to football teams. They are both angry with each other,” said 33-year-old Erika de Paula, who stated that she was undecided, but did not want to vote for Bolsonaro.
Felipe Araujo, who considers himself to be a moderate ally of Bolsonaro said he wished that the election were over soon. “(The election) is extremely divided among the main contenders. There’s plenty of conflict between different people. I hope this ceases in the near future. It’s contaminating all the work environments, workplaces families, acquaintances,” he said.
Participation of the voters will be vital in this crucial juncture in the country. This could see Brazil’s leaders increase Bolsonaro’s influence or even take a right to the right under Lula.
However, 4/10 of Brazilians think there’s the possibility of violence on election day. while voting is a requirement in Brazil 9 percent of respondents reported that they were considering not participating in elections due to fears of violence as per a Datafolha poll conducted earlier in the month.
“These tensions and violence are extremely harmful to the research process as well as for the election as well as for the political climate generally, and for democracy in general,” said Estevao de Souza of Datafolha.