Brazil’s Coup May Come After Lula Takes Office

In 2023, the bolsonarista horde, kept mobilized by the discourse of electoral fraud, may return to the streets demanding the deposition of the new “illegitimately elected” president.

By Marcelo Zero

Bolsonaro has been following a well known script, inherited from Steve Bannon, to try to stay in power. He is attacking the electoral system, “denouncing” in advance, without any type of proof, that there will be election fraud. He is also slandering leaders of the judiciary in an attempt to show that they have ties to “terrorism” and have a “secret communist agenda”.

In the bolsonaristas toxic bubble, disconnected from reality, these pseudo-accusations ring deep and keep the horde motivated for unrestrained hatred. They are being primed – well in advance – for an assault on democracy.

This script has two obvious potential outcomes:

1- Refusal to hold elections, under the excuse they are impossible to hold fairly; and

2- Contesting the results of the election with no proof, based only on complaints from bolsonarista voters, which could result in a new version of the US January 6 assault on the Capitol.

However, there is a third possible outcome. This would involve preventing Lula from governing and promoting a coup to remove him after his inauguration as happened with Dilma Rousseff just one year after her reelection. From the ground, this seems like the most likely outcome.

Lula will have to govern in difficult circumstances and in a context of high expectations. The country is destroyed and nearly all the social, economic, political and cultural advances achieved during years of Workers Party governance have been reversed. From 2016 forwards, there haven’t just been 7 lost years, but deep setbacks which will require great effort to repair. Furthermore, the international scenario is conflictive and restrictive due to the economic crisis – now fueled by the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia – which is harming the world’s poorest populations. This creates a delicate and unstable political framework, conducive to coup attempts.

Another factor is the lack of real commitment to democracy by vast sectors of the so-called traditional right. Now disguised as supporters of a “third path”, these sectors actively participated in the 2016 coup and could, given favorable circumstances, easily promote a new coup as long as it is, once again, cloaked in an a veneer of legality.

In order to try to improve the quality of life of the poor a future Lula government will have to promote a progressive tax reform which will certainly displease Brazil’s oligarchies. Another source of great friction with elites is a possible full or partial reversal of the deeply neoliberal 2017 labor reforms, which failed to generate new jobs while deeply exacerbating labor insecurity.

Policies aimed at protecting the environment will displease the most backward sectors of agribusiness. Furthermore policies designed to protect the so-called minorities will certainly encounter resistance in the vast sectors of our population currently dominated by medieval reactionism.

In these circumstances the bolsonarista horde, kept mobilized by the discourse of electoral fraud, may return to the streets demanding the deposition of the new “illegitimately elected” president. The spark of the discovery of a new case of alleged “corruption” will be enough for a great political fire to be ignited. This fire could return bolsonarista neofascism to power.

Therefore, the commitment to democracy cannot not end with the holding of elections and the inauguration of a new elected president. It is essential that such a commitment also extends to ensure that the freely-chosen new administration can govern and to guarantee that a new president can finish his term without major setbacks.

Lula is the great hope of Brazilian democracy. No other ruler has contributed so much to strengthening our democratic process. After all, there is no great solid and advanced democracy without income distribution, without social inclusion and without the full enjoyment of not only political and civil rights, but also social and economic rights. However, this hope needs to be channeled into actions and policies that can change the sad reality of a destroyed, divided and profoundly unequal country that is once again suffering from hunger.

The fascist beast of bolsonarismo will always be on the prowl. Lula and the aligned democratic and progressive forces will need to govern for a long time to disarm all the traps against democracy and put Brazilian neo-fascism where it belongs: in the garbage can of history.


By Marcelo Zero

Marcelo Zero is a sociologist, international relations specialist and technical adviser to the PT Senatorial leadership.