Food is on the ballot in Brazil’s contentious presidential vote, and so far, the candidates have been doing their best to scare people into voting for either far-right populist candidate Jair Bolsonaro or far more moderate candidate Michel Temer.
It’s a simple math equation: In a two-party system with two candidates, every voter must choose between them. And if either of them wins a majority in the first round of voting, they win. The votes of those who choose Bolsonaro, Temer, and every other candidate are meaningless or wasted, and the loser can take the blame for having let the country down.
It’s also a system that’s already broken—the US presidential election, like the French presidential election before it, is marked by deadlock: It has no clear favorite candidate, and votes are being counted in a system where third-party candidates aren’t allowed to participate—to their detriment. Even so, it’s the closest we’ve come to a two-party presidential election, which might be the one that finally forces presidential candidates to take positions and make major compromises, instead of trying to scare the population into voting like they did in France and the US.
A country divided seems like a country at war. But as Brazilian election watchers know, you can’t make a democracy in a divided country.
In Brazil, a country that has for many decades counted its strength with autocratic government and a poor populace that has given up on democracy, electoral rule has become a dangerous game. In a country plagued by political corruption, drug militias, and poverty, in a system that has produced candidates who don’t even seem to understand the most basic rules of civil behavior, the vote has become a dangerous game.
In the Brazilian election, the most divisive questions in a political campaign have less to do with politics and more to do with politics and power: What kind of country are you making, and why should I trust you?
I’ve lived in Brazil for half a decade, and it’s clear to me that the country has long since been divided by the lines of class. In the past two decades of