Bolsonaro outperforms polls as first round of Brazilian election fails to yield an outright winner

Bolsonaro outperforms polls as first round of Brazilian election fails to yield an outright winner

Plus: Why are Iran’s protests still going, and will they bring down the government?

Hi there Intriguer. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is continuing in the east and south of the country, with widespread reports of ill-equipped Russian troops abandoning vehicles and equipment as they retreat. Francis Fukuyama – the infamous historian and author of the widely misunderstood ‘End of History’ – cryptically tweeted on Monday: “A much bigger Russian collapse will unfold in the coming days“. 👀

Today’s briefing is a ~5.0 min read:

  • 🇧🇷 The Brazilian election: no winner yet.
  • ➕ Plus: Australia sets an ambitious ‘zero-extinction’ target, Singapore engages in ‘Orchid Diplomacy’, and why Iran hasn’t been able to quell the protests.

Round 1: Lula ahead, but Bolsonaro snapping at his heels

In brief:

  • During the first round of Brazil’s general election on Sunday, no candidate gained the 50% majority needed to win outright, so Lula and Bolsonaro will go head to head in a run-off vote on 30 October.
  • While this round of voting didn’t give Brazil a president, it nonetheless showed us that Bolsonarismo is far from over, Brazil’s political centre has been hollowed out, and reminded us all of the limits of political polling.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (L) and Jair Bolsonaro (R) will go head to head in a run-off election.

It’s time to be patient

Expectations are funny: win an election, but not by quite as much as you were expected to, and you’re ‘in trouble’. Lose an election by a significant margin, but by less than polls predicted, and you ‘have all the momentum’.

And so it went in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday:

  • Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won 48.4% of the vote.
  • Current President Jair Bolsonaro won 43.2%.
  • Nine other candidates split the remaining vote.

Because no candidate secured more than 50% of the vote in the first round of elections, Lula and Bolsonaro will now go head to head in a runoff election on 30 October.

The key takeaways

1.  🔥 Bolsonarismo isn’t going anywhere

President Bolsonaro performed better than expected, and his allies also won big in Brazil’s house, senate, and governor races. This means that whatever happens on 30 October, Bolsonaro and his brand of conservative populism are here to stay.

“With yesterday’s results, and the wave of pro-Bolsonaro figures elected to Congress and governorships, the president can credibly claim to be the leader of a conservative movement with energy and staying power.”

Brian Winter, Editor-in-Chief for Americas Quarterly

2. 🫗 The centre of Brazilian politics has been hollowed out

Bolsonaro’s politics have polarised the political landscape in Brazil. Niels Søndergaard, an assistant professor at the University of Brasilia, notes:

 “Bolsonaro, just like Trump, has completely cleared the political space for the centre-right; you are either with him, or you lose.”

3. 🔮 PSA: political polling isn’t flawless

President Bolsonaro performed considerably better than forecasts suggested. While polls are, by their nature, estimates, there are a growing number of experts who say that political polling is more likely to undercount conservative voters:

“[T]he kind of people who answer polls are systematically different from the kind of people who refuse to answer polls — and that this has recently begun biasing the polls in a systematic way.” 

David Shor, American data scientist and political consultant

What’s next?

Over the next four weeks, Brazil will see political campaigning on steroids, as Bolsonaro and Lula try to secure enough votes to win the election.

  • Brazilian political history is in Lula’s favour: since the country’s return to democracy in 1989, every candidate who won the first round of voting went on to become president.

However, analysts have been saying for weeks that the tighter the election, the more likely Bolsonaro will refuse to accept the election results if he loses. Despite his better-than-expected performance, Bolsonaro told reporters on Sunday that he would wait for the military to investigate the results:

“Our system is not 100 percent ironclad. There’s always the possibility of something abnormal happening in a fully computerized system.”

This real race is only just beginning.

Who will be Brazil’s next president?

Bolsonaro and Lula head to a second round election on 30 October

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Southeast Asia & the Pacific

🇦🇺 Australia

Australia has set a ‘zero-extinction’ target for its unique plants and animals in a newly-released ‘Threatened Species Action Plan’.

  • The plan pledges ~$150M to help threatened species recover, and promises to reserve at least 30% of Australia’s land for conservation efforts.
  • Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent as climate change and human expansion increasingly threaten its unique environment.

🇮🇳 India

India is playing tough in its trade negotiations with the UK, using its leverage to squeeze in as many last-minute concessions as possible.

  • UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is eager to line up a post-Brexit win for her government and has ordered her trade chief to finalise the bilateral trade agreement by 24 October.
  • However, India isn’t in a rush: it is now demanding the UK lower its steel safeguards in exchange for a delicious major reduction of tariffs on scotch whiskey.

🇱🇦 Laos

Laotian Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh travelled to Singapore to meet with his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong and discuss deeper energy and trade ties.

  • During the visit, the two countries signed four memoranda of understanding to enhance cooperation on energy, climate change, and water resource management.
  • Fun fact: a new orchid hybrid was named in honour of Viphavanh and his wife – Singapore regularly uses ‘Orchid Diplomacy‘ to impress its foreign guests.

🇹🇭 Thailand

The Governor of the Bank of Thailand has said he is optimistic about the country’s economic recovery and that he is convinced inflation will subside next year.

  • Despite regional and global volatility, an increase in domestic consumption and tourism is expected to boost the Thai economy in 2023.
  • The central bank has forecasted Thailand will clock in at 3.3% growth this year and 3.8% in 2023.

🇻🇳 Vietnam

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade announced a temporary anti-dumping tariff of between 21.4% and 35.2% on some Chinese furniture products.

  • An anti-dumping tariff is designed to limit imports that the government believes are priced below fair market value.
  • China is Vietnam’s biggest trading partner, but the Ministry is concerned by a steep increase in Chinese table and chair imports, which threaten Vietnam’s domestic sector.

Anti-regime protests in Iran show no signs of subsiding

A protester in Washington DC holds up a picture of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died at the hands of Iran’s ‘morality police’. Credits: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

A growing movement: Protests that spread across Iran after the killing of a young woman by Iran’s morality police are entering their third week and show no signs of stopping.

A problem for the regime: The protests appear to have formed spontaneously and organically, which means the Iranian government is having trouble shutting them down.

“One of the reasons that it has become extremely difficult and challenging for the government to come up with a response or an effective way to shut down the current protest is that they can’t really go after a particular figure.”

  • On the other hand, experts have pointed out that the protests are unlikely to topple the government precisely because there is no central opposition figure to rally around.

The Iranian government is pointing fingers: On Monday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, broke his silence to accuse Iran’s rivals of inciting the protests:

“The recent incidents were orchestrated by America, the Zionist regime and the people on their payroll and Iranians who are traitors abroad”.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Global reactions: Western leaders have condemned Iran’s handling of the situation and called for an independent investigation into Mahsa Amini’s death.

  • President Biden promised the US would take “further action” against the “perpetrators of violence” in Iran, while several EU countries submitted a sanctions proposal.

A bolder approach: Analysts have been quick to note the contrast between the US response now and the last time protests swept Iran.

  • When similar unrest broke out in 2009, President Obama and his then-Vice President Joe Biden were far more cautious, fearing public support for the protestors would allow the Iranian regime to blame the CIA and thus undermine the protestors’ cause.

I’ve got a golden… passport?

You know, just like that Willy Wonka song we all know and love.

  • 🥇’Golden passports’ grant citizenship to individuals who invest a certain amount of money in a country.

The cost varies by country, but many find the practice unethical and believe it presents security concerns. For example, individuals who buy citizenship in one EU country can easily move around to the rest of the EU.

  • Russian elites take advantage of this program, with Roman Abramovich becoming a Portuguese citizen last year (it’s doubtful he loves pastel de natas that much).

Many worry this program leaves the EU exposed to security risks, particularly with the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

Read more about the golden passports in The Hustle.

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