Brazil votes for more than a president

The Oct. 2 election may show that political intimidation and fear are not equal to a public desire for honesty in vote counting and democratic rule of law.

A man walks past presidential campaign materials depicting Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and and President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia,

In recent years, political disinformation campaigns – like those that have shaken confidence in America’s democratic institutions – have become an increasingly common playbook around the world. Brazilian voters now have an opportunity to push back against that trend.

On Sunday, the South American giant holds presidential and congressional elections that carry high stakes for Latin America. The most immediate consequence could be the reversal of democracy’s erosion in Brazil – and the model it sets elsewhere.

The election campaign has been marred by violence and, most of all, withering campaign rhetoric aimed at undermining the integrity of the electoral system. Yet despite those threats, or perhaps because of them, voters appear undeterred. A Gallup Poll this week showed that lack of public confidence in the honesty of the ballot, while still high at 67%, is nearly 20% lower than it was ahead of the last presidential election in 2018.

The mood to defend democracy was reflected in a public letter drafted by the University of Brasília law school faculty and signed by nearly 1 million people. “Our civic conscience is much greater than the opponents of democracy imagine,” the letter declares. “We know how to put aside minor differences in favor of something much bigger, the defense of the democratic order. ... We cry out in unison: Democratic rule of law always!” On the day it was released in August, it was read aloud in crowded public gatherings in cities across the country.

A similar campaign has been waged by Brazil’s election bodies, the military, the courts, and civil society to safeguard voters and boost accountability in the vote. That includes the creation of a “transparency commission” of tech experts, public officials, and pro-democracy groups to counter disinformation. The Election Court (which oversees elections), for example, partnered with WhatsApp to allow users to denounce bulk messages from candidates.

Candidates “are more timid because they know that the verification instruments are very strong,” said Chico Otavio, a reporter at O Globo newspaper, to Agência Brasil before the last election. “The lie has lost its force.”

The Election Court also, for the first time, ran an advance simulation of its voting-day testing procedure for ballot counting machines to demonstrate their accuracy. Military leaders have reportedly offered quiet assurances to members of Congress and the judiciary that they will not back any efforts by candidates to disrupt the election or oppose the results unlawfully.

“We are living through particularly difficult times in the institutional life of the country,” said Justice Rosa Weber, who was made president of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court on Sept. 12. “I pay homage to the Brazilian people who do not give up the fight for their real independence and seek to build it every day.”

At a time of global concern for democracy, Latin America is providing laboratories of civic resilience. In some countries, like Nicaragua and El Salvador, authoritarian governments hold the upper hand. Elsewhere, in countries like Chile and Honduras, democracy is finding renewal, fueled by public demands for honesty and equality. On Sunday, and in the days that follow the vote, Brazilians may add a new accent to those demands.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Brazil votes for more than a president
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today