Home / Opinion / Views /  Mint Explainer: How Brazil’s election riots unfolded

Brazilian democracy faced another stress test on January 8 as the capital city of Brasilia erupted in protests. The protestors, who are largely supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro, are disputing the legitimacy of the recent October residential election, which saw Luiz Inácio da Silva defeat Bolsonaro. Mint breaks down the developments in Brazil:

On January 8, thousands of pro-Bolsonaro protestors flooded the streets of Brasilia. They marched into government buildings like the Congress and Supreme Court and manhandled bystanders including journalists before security forces cracked down. Many of the protestors refused to accept the results of the October presidential election which gave Luiz Inácio da Silva, popularly known as Lula, a third term in office.

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Over a thousand protestors have been detained by the security forces. While the country has been shocked by glaring failures in managing the crowds, more worrying still is the resemblance the riots bear to the January 6 Capitol riots in the United States.

Brazil has been on edge since the conclusion of the October presidential election. Lula narrowly edged out incumbent president Bolsonaro for the country’s top job. In the aftermath of the election, pro-Bolsonaro protestors began setting up camps outside military installations calling for the armed forces to intervene to stop what they believed was a fraudulent election.

The military did not act and Lula formally took over as president in the first week of January. His inauguration took place after months of protests by Bolsonaro supporters, who even attacked police headquarters in the capital city of Brasilia.

While Bolsonaro has criticized the protestors, he played a key role in sowing doubt about the integrity of Brazil’s election process. He made repeated allegations of voter fraud without providing substantive proof. When the results of the election were announced, Bolsonaro did not contest them and has not interfered in the transfer of power.

Brazil has reacted to the protests with shock and swift action. President Lula condemned the protestors as “fascists". Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of Brasilia’s governor for failing to stop the protests. Security forces are shutting down camps set up by pro-Bolsonaro protestors outside military camps.

World leaders like Joe Biden and Colombian President Gustavo Petro condemned the rioters while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and France’s Emmanuel Macron expressed concern at the riots.

Despite the peaceful transfer of power, the rifts in Brazilian society have been on clear display. Polarization has triggered violence on the streets and led to a creeping doubt about the resilience of the country’s democratic institutions.

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