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Brazil Moves One Step Closer to a Peaceful Transition of Power

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“Democracy won.”

On Monday afternoon, Brazil’s Electoral Court officially certified the election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president, putting the country one step closer to burying any illegitimate challenge to the electoral process ahead of Lula’s inauguration on January 1. In an emotional speech, the three-time president-elect who defeated far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro last October in a close race celebrated the “significant portion of Brazilians who have regained the right to live in a democracy.” Lula, vowing to make Brazil a more developed and just country, was moved to tears as he recalled the first time he was certified as president in 2002. He described the “boldness of the Brazilian people for granting [it] to someone so often questioned for not having a university degree…I want to apologize for the emotion because anyone who went through want I went through over these last few years and being here now is proof that God exists.” 

Bolsonaro has never fully conceded to Lula. His long silence following the vote and his support of unfounded claims of election fraud—further advanced by far-right purveyors of the Big Lie in the United States who pushed the outgoing president to refuse to acknowledge the loss—encouraged his die-hard followers to take to the streets and call for military intervention. For weeks, Bolsonaro supporters have baselessly protested the result of the elections, blocking highways and camping outside army barracks. Last Friday, Bolsonaro reappeared in public and told his supporters he was fighting “an entire system” and that “nothing is lost.” He also said the armed forces are the “last obstacle to socialism,” adding, “You are the ones who decide where I go; you are the ones to decide what the armed forces do.”

In November, Alexandre de Moraes, the head of Brazil’s electoral court, rejected a request from Bolsonaro’s party to void votes cast in the runoff. This attempt to overturn the results of the elections was based on claims of unproven software malfunction with the electronic voting machines. Moraes characterized the “bad faith” challenge as “bizarre and illicit” with the goal of encouraging “criminal and anti-democratic movements” based on a “totally fraudulent narrative of the facts.”

During the certification ceremony, Moraes reaffirmed the legitimacy of the transparent and secure electoral process and strongly condemned “cowardly attacks” from extremist groups whose goal was to “replace the popular vote with a dictatorship” against Brazil’s democratic institutions and the press. He also denounced the spread of fake news and hate speech on social media and vowed to hold them “fully responsible, so this won’t happen again in the next election.”

Lula said his win represented the victory of the project of reconstruction over the project of destruction of the country. He also called for a global governance effort to counter anti-democratic actors. “The machine that attacks democracy has no homeland or borders,” Lula said. He also mentioned how lies and hatred spread on social media had poisoned the national discourse and led to “political violence only seen in the saddest pages of our history.” Nonetheless, he added, “democracy won.” 

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