International warnings are mounting about efforts to “destroy democracy” in Brazil, days before voters go to the polls in a presidential election that has deepened divisions in the South American nation.
Right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro has suggested he may reject the results if he loses, as most opinion polls show him trailing his leftist rival, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The US Senate late Wednesday passed a resolution endorsing free elections in Brazil and condemning “attempts to incite political violence and undermine the electoral process.”
The unanimously adopted symbolic measure calls on the United States government to “immediately” recognize the result of the October 2 vote, if deemed justified by international observers.
It calls on the Biden administration to “review and rethink the relationship between the United States [and] Any government that comes to power through democratic means including a military coup in Brazil”.
Sunday’s poll pits Bolsonaro against Lula, who has a 13-percentage-point lead in opinion polls conducted this week.
There are many other candidates aspirants for the post of President. If no one wins a majority vote, a second round of voting will be held on October 30. The candidates are set for a final debate later Thursday.
Reporting from Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapallo said the election had sharply polarized the country, with Bolsonaro’s supporters painting his rival as a communist and Lula’s supporters seeing the president as a right-wing extremist.
“One thing voters here have in common is that many … see this election as a serious battle over the future of Brazilian democracy,” Rapallo said.
For months, Bolsonaro has been making baseless allegations that Brazil’s electronic voting system is vulnerable to widespread fraud — allegations that rights groups fear are setting the stage for him to dispute the results to stay in power.
Other experts have also expressed concern that Bolsonaro’s supporters could take to the streets in large numbers and spark political violence if he is not re-elected.
On Wednesday, US lawmaker Bernie Sanders, who is the main sponsor of the Senate resolution, said the measure aims to send a message that Congress supports democracy in Brazil.
“Endorsing an undemocratic government is unacceptable for the United States and sends a terrible message to the world,” Sanders said in a statement.
“It is important for the Brazilian people that we are on their side, on the side of democracy.”
This week, dozens of European MPs urged the EU to “take additional steps to make it clear to President Bolsonaro and his government that Brazil’s constitution must be respected and that attempts to subvert the rules of democracy are unacceptable”.
Brazil has elections on Sunday! Bolsonaro has repeatedly and gratuitously attacked the electronic voting system. I am calling the EC-Chairman with my colleagues @vonderleyen and HR @JosepBorrellF Monitoring the situation in 🇧🇷 and supporting democratic institutions pic.twitter.com/tcoyxCJLck
— Anna Cavazzini (@anna_cavazzini) 28 September 2022
In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the parliamentarians said it was “vital” to dissuade Brazil’s military leadership from supporting the “coup”.
Brazil was under authoritarian military rule from 1964 to 1985, and Bolsonaro – a former army captain – has praised the former regime, which rights groups described as a “brutal dictatorship”.
“The EU will use various levers, including trade, to protect Brazil’s democracy and human rights,” the European lawmakers said.
With a population of nearly 215 million, Brazil is the second-most populous country in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States.
It is home to large swathes of the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”, which is at increased risk of deforestation.
Climate advocates have criticized Bolsonaro’s government for weakening environmental regulations and supporting mining in the Amazon.
If elected, Lula has promised to protect the rainforest and stop illegal mining and logging.
Last week, United Nations experts condemned threats, intimidation and political violence in the run-up to elections in Brazil. He said, “We appeal to the authorities to protect and respect the work of electoral bodies.
In August, Human Rights Watch pointed the finger at Bolsonaro for “using a mix of insults and threats to intimidate independent media and the Supreme Court.”
Amnesty International also accused Bolsonaro earlier this month of using “anti-human rights discourse” ahead of the election.