Record number of voters abroad

VICENTE NUNES Correspondent

posted on 10/01/2022 18:31

(credit: Credit: Ed Alves/CB.)

Lisbon — Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up the boldest structure in history so that Brazilians living abroad can vote in this year’s presidential elections. By the calculations of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), more than 697 thousand citizens are able to register their choices in the electronic voting machines this Sunday, October 2nd. This is an increase of 39% compared to the 2018 election. The movement around the dispute that will define the commander of the largest economy in Latin America for the next four years is so intense, that very strong security schemes have been set up in the places with the most voters, in order to guarantee the tranquility of the process and respect for the results.

Such concern is explained by the enormous political radicalization in Brazil, which has gone beyond its borders. The risks of violence are latent, stimulated by the spread of fake news that try to discredit the Brazilian electoral system. In order to reinforce the security of electronic voting machines, which have been in operation since 1996 without any suspicion of fraud having been proven, Itamaraty dispatched several teams to the main polling places around the world. Chancellor Carlos França took it upon himself to personally go to Florida to ensure that voters exercise their full right to citizenship. In total, there will be elections in 181 cities. The United States leads the queue of voters, followed by Portugal and Japan.

In 2018, President Jair Bolsonaro, then in the PSL, was consecrated as the winner abroad, with almost three times the total votes given to Fernando Haddad, from the PT — 131,671 against 53,730. “This year, however, the dispute will be fiercer”, believes political scientist André Rosa. “The profile of Brazilians who left the country in the last four years is very different from the one who already lived abroad in the 2018 elections. In addition, there is a much more competitive opponent to Bolsonaro, former President Lula”, he adds. For him, another factor must be taken into account: as in Brazil, many Bolsonaro voters abroad were disappointed in him and promise not to repeat their votes. “All this must be considered,” he believes.

Representativeness and abstention

The increase in the number of Brazilian voters in certain locations is impressive. In Dublin, Ireland, the increase compared to 2018 was 465% (from 2,111 to 11,946 voters). In Lisbon, Portugal, there was a jump of 113%. The Portuguese capital, with 45,273 voters, rose from seventh to first position among electoral colleges outside Brazil. Similar growth was seen in Porto, also in Portugal, now with 30,098 authorized to go to the polls (+110%), and in Paris, France, which now has 22,629 voters (+104%). In these groups are more educated and better informed citizens.

In the opinion of political scientist Rafael Favetti, despite the significant advance in the total number of Brazilian voters abroad, in proportional terms, they represent little in the universe of 156 million citizens registered by the TSE. However, it is a stratum that moves a lot because of the country’s image abroad. And, at the moment, there is enormous discontent with the government of Jair Bolsonaro. In the current administration, Brazil has isolated itself, especially in relation to Europe. On the other hand, the extreme right, with which the Brazilian president identifies, has shown impressive progress in various parts of the planet. It reached, for example, the government of Italy, which is part of the G7, the group of the seven most advanced economies in the world. All of this matters when voting.

Historically, abstention among Brazilian voters abroad is high. The big question that everyone asks is whether, with the polarization that sets the tone of the presidential race in Brazil, they will feel more encouraged to move to the polling places. There are several cases where voters need to travel for hours by car or public transport. In the United Kingdom, for example, voting will be concentrated in London — 34,498 citizens are registered with the TSE. As professor Antonio Lavareda, sociologist and president of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Social, Political and Economic Research (Ipespe) recalls, “the level of abstention will be relevant to the results, in Brazil and abroad”.

police reinforcement

If the two main candidates for the Presidency of the Republic are concerned with ensuring that voters turn out in droves, authorities in countries with the largest contingents of voters are focused on avoiding waves of violence during the election. In Portugal, the second largest college of voters outside Brazil, the Public Security Police (PSP) set up a scheme used in large events in Lisbon, Porto and Faro. Consul General of Brazil in the Portuguese capital, Ambassador Wladimir Valler Filho says that negotiations with the PSP leadership to guarantee the safety of voters took place over months. As a precaution, the area around the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon, where 118 polling stations were installed, has had its policing reinforced since yesterday.

The crowd, says the Consul General of Brazil in Porto, Ambassador Maria Stella Pompeu Brasil Frota, is for everything to happen in peace. However, to avoid unpleasant surprises, she personally took charge of summoning the local police to protect everyone who attended the Higher Institute of Engineering, the place chosen to host the electronic voting machines. “We will have police officers with extensive experience in large events,” she says. In Faro, it will be no different, admits the deputy consul, counselor Cláudia Vasques. In addition to the help of the PSP, all three Brazilian consulates in Portugal increased the number of private security guards who will work this Sunday.

Secretary for Multilateral Political Affairs at Itamaraty, Ambassador Paulino Franco de Carvalho Neto points out that all the resources — human and financial — were made available so that Brazilians living abroad can vote safely. He heads a team of 10 Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials who are in Portugal to support the work related to the elections. For diplomats, all they want to avoid is that images of violence, riots, physical aggression during votes outside Brazil flood the covers of newspapers and TV programs around the world. “We are fully convinced that, both abroad and in Brazil, in general, the elections will be held peacefully, so that Brazilian citizens can exercise their right”, he emphasizes.

world on alert

The expectation surrounding the Brazilian elections also mobilizes governments of all ideological hues. In Europe, for the most part, and in the United States, the preference is for the winner to be known in the first round, and the preference is for former president Lula, of the PT. Leaders from Spain, France, Germany, Portugal, as well as US President Joe Biden, believe that Brazil’s relations with the world will improve a lot. More: there will be greater engagement by the Brazilian government on issues such as the environment and the fight against hunger. With Bolsonaro, the country’s relations are restricted to far-right governments.

There is a combination of the main left, center-left and center-right world leaders so that, as soon as the results of the Brazilian elections are released, simultaneous announcements are released, regardless of who the winner is. The important thing, in the opinion of the heads of state, is that democracy be the big winner in the Brazilian elections. Coup movements that have emerged in recent months, with the enthusiasm of the Armed Forces, lit the warning signal in various parts of the planet. But few believe that any action outside the Constitution will succeed in Brazil.

The Itamaraty, by the way, did a great job of clarifying with the main governments of the world. Faced with doubts about the strength of Brazilian institutions to face coup attempts, diplomats tried to calm the mood, claiming that everything is nothing more than the rhetoric of candidates who fear being defeated at the polls. “Several of us were called to talk about the Brazilian elections, explain the electoral process, show the security of electronic voting machines and ensure that the powers that be are working in harmony, despite the electoral disputes. I believe that we managed to convince the majority of our interlocutors that Brazilian democracy is solid”, says a diplomat.

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