TORONTO - Maybe the populism of the Left has seen its best-before date. That’s the reading one gets from Jair Bolsonaro’s first statements after his stunning – but not unexpected – victory in Sunday’s run-o¢ election for the Brazilian Presidency. Bolsonaro received just under 56% of the popular vote.
Mainstream media and press have been treating his candidacy as an expression of “right-wing populism” (a simplistic, xenophobic, law and order type, militaristic and intolerant of diversity). As expected, such analysis absolve the previous incumbents in power of any responsibility. The “doom and gloom”, however, was brought on by the incompetency, corruption and moral decadence of those in power before yesterday.
It was Presidents Lula and his replacement Rousse¢ who ended up in jail or being indicted. If anything, one should wonder how or why “the Left” received the share of the popular vote they did. On the public security side, Brazil’s 61,283 murders last year (a murder rate of 29.53 per 100,000 inhabitants) indicated both complete collapse of respect for human rights and social responsibility.
The comparative rates for Canada (1.4) and Italy (0.6) illustrate how diµcult life in Brazil can be. On the economic side, Brazil’s economy – among the top 10 in the world, thanks both to its human resources reservoir and its plentiful natural resources – has been underperforming. Its rate of growth in the first half of this year was a disappointing 0.58%.
More telling is the relative collapse of its economic ability to produce and sustain wealth. Its GDP has dropped to USD 2.055 Trillion from a high of USD 2.616 Trillion – a loss in net worth of 21.5%. The per capita GDP reflects the impact on individuals: from a high of USD 11,915 to current USD 10,888. It is fair to expect that the citizenry would want its managers to reverse the trend and to establish policies that work towards those goals.
It’s not surprising that the advocates for the so-called “grander ambitions of the collective interests” have been sounding hollow and appearing shallow. They have not been listening and have su¢ered electoral defeats of classic proportions. Ontario and Quebec are but two recent Canadian examples.
The tattered political lives of David Cameron (Britain), former Premier Renzi (PD) in Italy and now Angela Merkel (CDU) in Germany are others. Who’s next? Bolsonaro does not come across as a pale image of Donald Trump. His first statements are not about himself but rather of the “big picture obligations” he acknowledges for himself and his Party.
“ We have to learn to live together … to rediscover that wealth that was ours … God has graced me with the ability to interpret the will of our fellow citizens”, he wrote on his facebook page,”the country demanded change … it could no longer bear the burden of a leftist populism [quasi] communistic extremism … we need to return to respect our God-fearing traditions … and return Brazil to its rightful place among the leaders of the world.”
He promised transparency and commitment to a plan that includes all Brazilians, their ambitions and their needs. “We’ll place everything on the table for everyone to examine, in the interests of the country and the common good.”
The campaign is over, in other words; time to get on with the task at hand. It will not be easy. But clearly the Brazilians have faith in him and his plan.